Days before Wossman High School battled No. 1 Peabody, a journalist tweeted the following, “If we get Peabody/Wossman, I’ll enjoy the PG matchup of (Jacoby Ross) vs. (C.J. Jones).”
Ross responded to the tweet, “Who is that?”
Unlike his opponent, C.J. didn’t tweet. Instead, he took a snapshot of the tweet and kept it to himself.
“I saw it when he first tweeted it before everybody else pumped it up, and I told my dad that I wasn’t going to say anything. I was going to show him who I was in the semifinals,” said the 2016 Ouachita Citizen Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
The dramatic finale of that clash between point guards was nothing short of spectacular, but one could argue Wossman making it to the Class 3A semifinals might be an even greater feat.
Back in the summer, Jones’ father, Casey Jones, returned to his alma mater, as he accepted the head coaching position at Wossman fresh off of a 30-win season at Ouachita Parish.
It was clear from the beginning the 2016 Ouachita Parish Boys Basketball Coach of the Year had his work cut out for him. Casey’s first practice with the team was held without four of his eventual starters.
“I don’t think the expectations were very high, but I always have high expectations for myself,” Casey said. “I told them when I took the job that I coach for championships.”
Three days passed before he got the eventual star of his team, his son. C.J. tried to stay at Ouachita Parish with his friends, but his heart led him to Wossman.
“Something just didn’t feel the same, knowing that he was still coaching in the same area and that we would have to play Wossman,” C.J. said.
Even with C.J., Casey was looking at an uphill battle. He had to gain the trust of the current players, while fitting C.J. into the mix. Meanwhile, Casey took a team that was used to running a 2-3 zone on defense and transitioned them into a man-base defense. While doing so, he gave his son perhaps the biggest responsibility on the team by making him the Wossman’s primary scorer. C.J. was somewhat unproven in that department, coming off of a season at Ouachita where he averaged approximately nine points per game.
The quiet point guard accepted the responsibility willingly and confidently.
“It was nice to have that role, but points don’t really matter to me as long as we win,” C.J. said.
To the surprise of many, Wossman won.
Starting shooting guard Anthony Caesar transferred over from Carroll High School, and guard/small forward Zach Smith and power forward L.T. Thomas joined the squad in late November once football was finished.
“When they finally got to us, we were having our third game of the season,” Casey said. “So early on, you could tell we didn’t have a lot of chemistry. But my whole goal was to get them there by district time.”
Casey used tournaments to sharpen his team, and one tournament after the next, the Wildcats showed promise.
The end of December saw the turn. Wossman gained confidence in a tournament against Rayville, Ruston and Woodlawn-Shreveport in West Monroe’s tournament, before beating West Monroe and St. Louis Catholic in the opening rounds of the 2016 Don Redden Memorial Classic. Then, Wossman played perhaps its most memorable game of the regular season, falling to Ouachita Parish 60-57 in overtime of the finals.
“After that game, we felt we could play with anybody,” C.J. said.
It showed. Wossman ran through district afterward, going 8-2 and beating Carroll in the winner-take-all district finale.
“If you look at the district before the season, people doubted we would even be in the top three, and how could you blame them?” Casey asked.
What seemed like sparse crowds at first became full capacity sellouts toward the end of the year and into the playoffs. Even in a road contest in the second round against Glen Oaks, the Wossman faithful showed up in full force.
“That was an awesome sight,” Casey said. “I kept seeing Monroe City school busses. We had five busses already at the game at 5:15 (p.m.). They opened the door at 5:30, and the entire home stands were filled with Wossman people, and our students were behind their bench. It felt like a home game.”
Wossman defeated Loyola College Prep, Glen Oaks and Patterson to earn a Top 28 invitation against Peabody. That’s when the tweet happened, and the player that averaged 24.2 points, 6.4 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game took offense.
Before meeting the No. 1 team in 3A, Casey met with his team in the locker room, confident that his guards could outplay the Warhorses’.
“I told them, we’re not playing against the past, the legend, the ghost of Peabody,” Casey said. “By watching film, I knew we could play with them. We just had to be close at the end of the game, and we were down by six entering the fourth quarter.”
Then, of course, the play happened that will undoubtedly go down in Wossman lore.
Caesar made the block, Darrell Comanche Jr. made the save and C.J. ran up the court with seconds ticking. He lifted the mid-court buzzer beater with the game tied at 57, and when the bottom touched the net, a frenzy broke out on the court and in the stands. Wossman won its 25th game of the season in dramatic fashion, and the Class 3A runner-ups made its mark in basketball when many didn’t foresee it.
A father returned to his alma mater and lifted it to championship heights, while a son carried the weight of that burden on the court. The combination provided memorable results.
2016 ALL-PARISH BOYS BASKETBALL
presented by The Ouachita Citizen
Jake Norris, West Monroe Sr. 5-10 155
Rod Hall, Ouachita Jr. 5-8 165
Saxton Becker, West Ouachita Sr. 6-3 195
Jay Head, Ouachita Jr. 6-6 220
Larry Owens, Carroll Jr. 6-8 260
Anthony Caesar, Wossman Sr. 5-9 160
Bobby Newton, Neville Sr. 6-2 160
Jay Gill, Ouachita Sr. 6-2 200
Semaj Colvin, Sterlington Jr. 6-1 195
Dennis Collins, West Monroe Jr. 6-3 250
Player of the Year:
Casey “CJ” Jones Jr., Wossman
Coach of the Year:
Casey Jones, Wossman