E.A. Sports Today

Heart wills its way to win

Second-half rally sends 1A Cardinals into boys county final for second straight year

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Sacred Heart rallied from nine points down late in the third quarter and made clutch free throws down the stretch to beat White Plains 71-66 and reach the boys championship game of the Calhoun County Tournament.

The 1A Cardinals (18-8) will play top-seeded 5A Alexandria Saturday at 8 p.m. at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

They trailed 42-33 with less than three minutes to play in the third and rallied to make the title game for the second year in a row. They lost to Anniston in last year’s final.

“I’m just glad our boys had the will to bring it through,” Cardinals coach Ralph Graves said. “Our leaders stepped up at the right time and some balls fell our way and we won the game.

“They showed me they’re mentally tough, they’re resilient. They stayed persistent with the game plan. They never swayed off from what we were going to do and they trusted what we did. I really appreciated it for our kids to be that way. It’s really hard to get a group of players to really buy into what you’re doing and trust the coaching staff and trust each other, and they did that.”

White Plains, ranked sixth in the Class 4A statewide poll, built its lead by taking advantage of the opening inside with Cardinals post Diante Wood on the bench in early foul trouble.

Wood left with three fouls with 5:21 left in the first half and the Cardinals down by one. He didn’t start the second half and when he returned with 4:47 left in the third quarter his team was down eight. Wood scored four straight points of Sacred Heart as soon as he returned and had eight of his 14 in the second half.

“Coach said I had to come out and be disciplined and be smart,” Wood said. “I came out and played disciplined and helped my team get a win. I knew I had to come in and play smart.”

Sacred Heart made 11 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter and 17 of 23 in the second half. The Cardinals were 8 for 8 in the final 2:16.

Kevion Nolan had six of them in the final 1:34, four in the final 35 seconds.

“That’s one of my strong suits, being able to get to the line,” Nolan said. “I think Im the best free throw shooter on the team and being able to get to the line and knock down shots was big for us.”

Sacred Heart got its scoring from four players, with Nolan and D.J. Heath scoring 20 each. Kavarri Ross had 17.

“We had to foul them late and they made us pay,” White Plains coach Chris Randall said. “We had a couple key misses at the free throw line … We played hard enough to win, just not good enough.”

Jerod Guthrie led White Plains with 26. He had 16 in the fourth quarter.

This story will be updated.

Sacred Heart 71, White Plains 66

SACRED HEART (18-8) – Diante Wood 4 6-9 14, Kavarri Ross 3 9-11 17, Darrin Wood 0 0-0 0, D.J. Heath 8 4-6 20, Keith Orlowski 0 0-0 0, Kevion Nolan 5 7-8 20, Sam Miller 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 26-34 71.

WHITE PLAINS – Jerod Guthrie 8 5-6 26, Dillon Greenwood 0 0-1 0, Kevin Carr 1 0-0 2, Eli Hightower 1 0-0 3, Michael McGuirk 3 7-9 14, Lawrence Jackson 0 1-2 1, Nathan Gilbert 5 0-2 10, Murphy Doss 4 2-2 10. Totals 22 15-22 66.

Sacred Heart 15 12 18 26 — 71
White Plains 14 14 19 19 — 66

3-point goals: Sacred Heart 5 (Ross 2, Nolan 3); White Plains 6 (Guthrie 5, McGuirk). Total fouls: Sacred Heart 18, White Plains 24. Fouled out: Heath. Officials: Smith, Holmes, Baker.

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