E.A. Sports Today

Sacred Heart starts fast, wins big

Cardinals jump out quickly to control early game

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Some people think it takes some getting used to playing in a big empty gym early in the day.

Sacred Heart’s Diante Wood didn’t have any trouble Saturday. The fabulous freshman scored 10 points in the first quarter and played a big part in the Cardinals seizing control of their eventual 73-48 win over Collinsville in the Holiday Hoops Challenge at Jacksonville State.

“I’m just used to it,” Wood said of his surroundings, having played in Pete Mathews Coliseum since he he was a seventh grader. “I’m not nervous or anything. I know how everything is, so you get used to it.

“It all starts with being a captain. You can’t take any plays off. You’ve got to keep going from the start of the game and finish at the end.”

Wood followed Kevion Nolan’s game-opening 3-pointer with six straight Sacred Heart points in a 13-1 start that grew to a 23-5 lead by quarter’s end. The Cardinals (7-6) had a 26-point lead at halftime and 29-point lead after three.

Wood finished with 16 points, including a big dunk in the end of the third quarter. D.J. Heath led all scorers with 21 points. Kevion Nolan also had 16 and Kavarri Ross added 12.

The fast start made things easier for the Cardinals, ranked No. 2 in Class 1A in the first statewide prep poll, but it was some loose play at the finish that was of more concern to coach Ralph Graves. The Cardinals had every chance to get to a running clock in the fourth quarter, but the 2A No. 6 Panthers (5-3) put up a fight.

Against a stronger opponent, in a tighter game, it could have devastating consequences. Graves wasn’t buying what happened as a product of the big early lead.

“Starting off to a good start is good, but finishing is better,” Graves said. “I’m not happy with our paying attention to detail, the small things, especially defensively and rebounding, playing smarter and things like that.

“Your lead on the scoreboard should not determine on each possession how well you play defense together and if you’re going to box out.”

Cover photo: Sacred Heart’s Diante Wood (1) and Kavarri Ross (2) trap the ball during a game earlier this season.

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