E.A. Sports Today

Diante does it all

UPDATED: Wood, Heath lead Sacred Heart over Skyline in regional opener

“I just don’t want to be inside all the time. I want to show them what all I can do.”

— Sacred Heart freshman Diante Wood

Kevion Nolan (23) drives between Skyline's James Guest (2) and Noah Tidwell for Sacred Heart's first basket of the game. (Photo by Shannon Fagan). On the cover, Diante Wood played a big role in the Cardinals' victory. (Photo by Al Muskewitz)

Kevion Nolan (23) drives between Skyline’s James Guest (2) and Noah Tidwell for Sacred Heart’s first basket of the game. (Photo by Shannon Fagan). On the cover, Diante Wood played a big role in the Cardinals’ victory. (Photo by Al Muskewitz)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — On most nights Sacred Heart plays, Diante Wood is going to be the biggest player on the floor.

He may be big, but he doesn’t play like a traditional big man. He can do a whole lot more than just hunker down under the basket.

In addition to that, the 6-foot-5 freshman can shoot the 3, has a nice mid-range touch, can handle the ball like a guard and run the floor. All those skills were on display Friday as he helped the Cardinals rout Skyline 76-46 in their Class 1A Northeast Regional semifinal at Jacksonville State.

The Cardinals (25-8) now play Talladega County Central (20-10) for a trip to Birmingham Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Wood, a 16-year-old ninth-grader, had 22 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and three assists. He was 9 for 12 from the floor, including both 3-pointers that didn’t look out of the ordinary he attempted. About the only thing he didn’t do was convert a breakaway dunk midway through the second quarter, and that’s typically routine for somebody’s big man.

“Is he a big guy or a tall guy? Is he the biggest guy on the floor or the tallest guy on the floor? There’s a difference,” Cardinals coach Ralph Graves said. “Most of the time he’s the tallest guy on the floor.

“But most of the time probably in Alabama if you’re the tallest guy on the floor more than likely they’re going to stick you under the basket, tell you to play with your back to the basket on the block, but Diante’s skill set he can (do more).

“That’s tremendous on his part of getting in the gym, working on those things, getting better at those things. That’s also a luxury to have.”

Skyline coach Ronnie McCarver said you just don’t see that combination in a 1A player very often. But, then, Graves has several starters who play at a high level.

“You make it to Jacksonville the first time and have to play something like that, players like that, … it’s a whole ‘nother world,” McCarver said. “We don’t see nothing like that where we’re up there playing.

“I hope I don’t see it no more. I’m hoping we see him go somewhere else. If they really want to be a good player, they’re going to have to go someplace else (outside of 1A) … to get ‘em a good scholarship. Of course, they play a good schedule now. (Class) 1 thru 5A, they’ll probably beat everybody here except for Jackson; 6A, I think they win those, too. They played Gadsden City to six points.”

It didn’t take long for Wood to assert himself against the Vikings (17-9). He had 13 points, nine boards and three blocks in the first half as the Cardinals opened a 38-18 lead. He was 6 for 9 from the field, including the first of his two 3-pointers.

“I just have to have confidence when I shoot,” he said. “I just don’t want to be inside all the time. I want to show them what all I can do.

“Coach tells me he expects a lot, (because) I have an advantage every time I go on the floor. I work hard every day, all day, in the gym to have a good game and prepare to do what I do best. I don’t think (the 3-pointers) should surprise them; anybody can shoot. I just work on shooting at practice so when I come into games I can make my shots.”

Of course, Wood didn’t do it alone Friday. D.J. Heath led all scorers with 26 points and had three assists and four steals in his first game back on the floor he was named MVP of the Calhoun County Tournament. One of his assists went to a final-minute 3-pointer by reserve Norman Tucker that got Graves as excited as anything he saw from his 20-point starters and was as satisfying to Heath as any play he made.

“It really felt good,” Heath said. “I know it made him feel good.”

Sacred Heart 76, Skyline 46

SKYLINE (17-9) – James Guest 1-4 2-2 4, Noah Tidwell 6-11 0-0 16, Brandon Henley 1-4 1-2 3, Dusty Willmon 3-12 1-1 7, Brad Rodgers 1-5 0-0 3, Tyler Berninger 0-2 0-0 0, Hunter Gider 2-5 3-4 7, Trenton Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Garrison Woodall 1-1 0-0 2, Austin Wade 1-3 2-2 4, Rob Parker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-47 9-11 46.

SACRED HEART (23-8) – Diante Wood 9-12 2-4 22, Kavarri Ross 2-8 2-2 7, D.J. Heath 11-21 1-1 26, Keith Orlowski 0-1 0-0 0, Kevin Nolan 2-8 1-3 6, Sam Miller 3-4 2-2 5, Darrin Wood 1-1 0-0 2, Caleb Lafollette 0-2 0-0 0, Bradley Mayfield 0-2 0-0 0, Jackson Orlowski 1-1 0-0 2, Tucker Norman 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 30-65 8-12 76.

Skyline 7 11 18 19 — 46
Sacred Heart 18 20 20 18 — 76

3-point goals: Skyline 5-13 (Guest 0-1, Tidwell 4-7, Henley 0-1, Rodgers 1-3, Berninger 0-1); Sacred Heart 8-qq (Di. Wood 2-2, Ross 1-2, Heath 3-7, Nolan 1-2, Lafollette 0-2, Mayfield 0-2, Norman 1-5). Rebounds: Skyline 35 (Wade 6); Sacred Heart 36 (Di. Wood 12, Nolan 10). Total fouls: Skyline 11, Sacred Heart 14. Officials: Mathison, Barnett, Guyton.

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