By Robert Wilson

         The Clinton Christian boys basketball team won’t be able to defend its MAIS Class 4A state championship after being the favorite and not losing a game to a Class 4A or lower class team all season.

         One of CCA’s players – sophomore guard LJ Jones – was ruled ineligible due to a residency violation by the MAIS Wednesday, CCA athletic director and boys and girls basketball coach Josh Zeitz said. Because Jones had played in all 34 of CCA’s games this season, CCA had to forfeit all its games.

         Even though CCA had to forfeit those games, it still could have continued to play. CCA was seeded No. 1 in the district tournament, received a first round bye and was scheduled to play No. 4 seed Hillcrest Thursday in the semifinals. The district voted to revert back to the district standings and not replay the district tournament, Zeitz said. Since it had to forfeit all eight district games, CCA was now the No. 5 seed. The top four teams go to next week’s South State tournament, thus eliminating CCA. Although the district voted to not play the boys tournament, the girls tournament was played. The district could have played the boys tournament Thursday, Friday and Saturday, but the four other schools in the district – Canton, Tri-County Academy, Hillcrest Christian School and Riverfield, La., – voted 3-1 to not play the tournament, Zeitz said. Hillcrest was the only one to vote to play, Zeitz said.

         CCA had a 24-10 record, had won 10 games in a row, and had just defeated defending MAIS Overall champion Madison-Ridgeland Academy 79-78 in triple overtime last weekend.

         “I’m devastated for my guys,” Zeitz said. “It’s hard to understand why someone would do this to a group of kids clearly my player lives in Clinton with his mom and dad. They aren’t renting some apartment or trailer. They bought a house and vacated the old house. The old house belongs to the young man’s grandparents, so it was not theirs to sell. Unfortunately, because his sister needed to move home, our season has ended. I dare anyone to make a rational argument that this is fair. That being said, I would rather sit on the sidelines with my kids, coaches and parents than coach any other team in the playoffs.”

Photo by Hays Collins

         The MAIS rule states that a family member cannot move into the house where the player lived. If the sister had moved into the house where the student and parents lived in Clinton, the player would have been eligible.  

         Jones transferred from Canton Academy to CCA last summer, Zeitz said.

         “The parents came to the school and wanted to transfer,” Zeitz said. “I told them the rule, they had move and live closer to our school, so they moved to Clinton. They had to move all the furniture out, which they did. LJ’s grandparents owed the house in Madison. I didn’t know the daughter had moved back from Texas until Wednesday when the MAIS informed me of the potential violation. I have all the documents of the parents moving to Clinton, the grandparents owning the house in Madison, the daughter living in Texas. I get the spirit of the rule because other schools have taken advantage of this situation. But this family didn’t do anything wrong. They moved like they were supposed to do. It’s just a sad situation.” 

         Zeitz’s CCA girls team is still alive and they are also defending state champions and is trying to reach the state championship game for the third year in a row. CCA is the No. 1 seed in its district and defeated Tri-County 51-35 Saturday for the district championship. CCA, 15-15 and winners of 12 of its last 14 games, meets Wayne Academy, the third-place team from District 3, Thursday at 4 p.m. at Canton Academy. 

          Zeitz was named the Priority One Bank/Mississippi Scoreboard Metro Jackson Girls Basketball Coach of the Year last season. He became only the second coach in MAIS history to win both a boys and girls state championship in the same year.