E.A. Sports Today

Cardinals continue to roll

Nolan, Ross lift Sacred Heart over Leeds for 12th straight win

Sacred Heart's Kevion Nolan (23) is poised to drive on Leeds' Jeffrey Nolan in their game Thursday night. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography).

Sacred Heart’s Kevion Nolan (23) is poised to drive on Leeds’ Jeffrey Nolan in their game Thursday night. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography).

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

There are 18 pieces of masking tape lined down the back of a door the Sacred Heart basketball team sees every time it enters its upstairs team room.

The way they’re laid out, they look like rungs on a ladder, an appropriate image since the strips represent their climb to the brass ring since the turn of the new year. Each piece has a game written on it, but not until it has been played.

Right now there are 11 Ws on the tape and the seven remaining pieces are blank. The Cardinals would like to keep them coming, for if they have all Ws on the tape, they will have won the state championship. (OK, they can get away with losing in the area championship game and still move on, but you get the idea.).

The Cardinals added W No. 11 Thursday night when they put down Class 4A Leeds 69-57 for their 11th straight win of 2015 and 12th in a row overall.

“That started in Year 2015 and our goal was to go on a winning streak and lose no more around here and in tournament play; right now we’re keeping it and we have seven more to go,” guard Kevion Nolan said. “We don’t want any Ls up there. As we continue to look up there and keep seeing Ws up there, one by one we’ll get there.”

Coach Ralph Graves put the pieces of tape on the door shortly after the Cardinals beat Donoho on Jan. 3 and, guard Kavarri Ross said, “we’ve just kept adding on after that,” trying to beat the next team worse than the one before.

“The team just said we’re not going to lose from here on out and put all the pieces up there so we could see the journey of how it’s going to be,” Graves said. “Every time we come in with a game we just write it up there and put it down one by one.”

Leeds came from behind to beat the Cardinals in its first game of the season – three days after winning a state football championship – but there would be no comeback this time. In fact, every time the Green Wave got close Nolan was there to bury a 3 and turn them away.

Nolan and Ross each hit four 3-pointers in the game as the Cardinals (21-8) used their outside shooting to offset any advantage Leeds might have had inside.

The Green Wave got it to 15-14, Nolan hit a 3. They got it to 22-20, he hit a 3. They tied it at 25, he hit another 3. They tied it at 28, he converted a four-point play to touch off a 9-0 run that sent the Cardinals to a 37-31 halftime lead.

After Leeds cut it to 37-35 early in the second half, it was Ross’ turn. He drained 3s on back-to-back possessions to put the Cardinals in complete control.

“We were just taking what they were giving us,” Ross said. “They were giving us wide open shots behind the perimeter so that’s what we were taking.”

Nolan led all scorers with 22 points. Ross had 16 and Diante Wood 15. Not that they had to prove the point, but the balanced scoring shows the Cardinals are more than D.J. Heath. The Calhoun County Tournament MVP was held to one point in the first half and without a field goal until 1:56 remained in the third quarter, but the Cardinals still had plenty of firepower to lead the game.

“It’s a team game,” Graves said. “The difference is you’ve got other teams who have that one player, he has to score and they lose. On our team, pick which one you going to stop; that’s the key. D.J. may have one point, but you can’t disregard these other people in double figures. That’s a compliment to our boys to play off each other like that and whoever’s the hot man you go with him.”

It’s an approach that’s worked 11 straight time since they turned the calendar page. The evidence is on those pieces of tape on the door. There are seven empty slots to fill.

“We’ve got to go 1-0 seven times,” Nolan said. “We go game-by-game and we’ll come out on top.”

Cover photo: Kevion Nolan and Kavarri Ross point to the latest victim on Sacred Heart’s journey to fulfill their goal of winning a state title.

Sacred Heart 69, Leeds 57

LEEDS (8-15) – Deontez Clark 0 2-4 2, Jacoby Lockhart 6 0-2 13, Jermaine Johnson 0 0-0 0, Koi Freeman 2 1-1 5, Adam Mitchell 1 2-3 4, Isiah Sharp-Perry 2 0-0 6, Jeffrey Nolan 7 1-2 15, Fazion Sharp-Perry 5 1-2 11. Totals 23 7-14

SACRED HEART (21-8) – Diante Leeds 6 2-3 15, Kavarri Ross 5 2-2 16, Sam Miller 1 0-2 2, Darrin Wood 0 0-0 0, D.J. Heath 4 2-3 10, Bradley Mayfield 0 0-0 0, Keith Orlowski 2 0-0 4, Kevion Nolan 6 6-7 22. Totals 24 12-17 69.

Leeds 14 17 14 12 — 57
Sacred Heart 18 19 16 16 — 69

3-point goals: Leeds 4 (Lockhart 2, I. Sharp-Perry 2); Sacred Heart 9 (Di. Wood, Ross 4, Nolan 4). Total fouls: Leeds 17, Sacred Heart 13. Officials: Killingsworth, Gilbert, Kelley.

Sam Miller puts up a shot over Leeds' Jeffrey Nolan in Sacred Heart's 69-57 victory. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Sam Miller puts up a shot over Leeds’ Jeffrey Nolan in Sacred Heart’s 69-57 victory. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

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