E.A. Sports Today

Cardinals fly into Final Four

UPDATES Sacred Heart survives shootout with TCC; Spring Garden girls hold off Woodville

TCC's Crystyle Stockdale and Sacred Heart's D.J. Heath (5) face up during Tuesday's game. Stockdale scored 30 points and Heath was named tournament MVP.

TCC’s Crystyle Stockdale and Sacred Heart’s D.J. Heath (5) face up during Tuesday’s game. Stockdale scored 30 points and Heath was named tournament MVP.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Sacred Heart hasn’t played many close games this season, especially against 1A competition, but all that matters today is it knows what to do when it does.

The Cardinals were locked in a tight battle with Talladega County Central all night in their Class 1A Northeast Regional title game Tuesday night, but in the end they had the right stuff to pull out a 65-54 win for a return trip to the Final Four in Birmingham.

They will play South champion A.L. Johnson in the second 1A semifinal 1:30 p.m. Monday at the BJCC.

“It feels good to go back to Birmingham,” Cardinals coach Ralph Graves said. “I think our boys love it there. I really do think last year’s experience there will help us out a whole lot.”

The Cardinals got 55 points from D.J. Heath, Kevion Nolan and Diante Wood. It might be a stretch to compare it to Michael Jordan’s flu game in the 1997 NBA Finals – on MJ’s (and Graves’ mother’s) birthday of all days – but Heath fought through a stomach virus to score 21 and earn tournament MVP honors.

It was the second time this year Heath won MVP honors on the Pete Mathews Coliseum floor. He also was MVP of the Calhoun County Tournament.

Nolan also scored 21 points, behind two key 3-pointers and 11-of-11 shooting from the foul line he credited to a shooting game played by Steph Curry and coach Steve Kerr after practice the night before. Wood added 13 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots despite foul trouble that kept him out most of the third quarter.

All of that helped to offset a 30-point game by TCC’s Crystyle Stockdale.

After TCC jumped to out 6-0, nobody led by more than five until Sacred Heart pulled away in the fourth quarter. But then, the Cardinals only led by two with 2:14 to play before scoring the last nine points of the game – the final seven from the free throw line. They were 25 of 32 from the line for the game.

“I credit the win to poise,” Graves said. “We’re a very poised team. You play close here, you play close there, you play down. That comes from playing a tough schedule. Our boys are battle tested.

“Even though we were down early and down in the third quarter, struggled scoring and in some foul trouble here and there, I think the way they handled themselves collectively was probably where the credit should go … I was proud our boys actually pulled it through.”

Heath had the most to get through. He was down with a virus all day and was only cleared to play shortly before game time. He didn’t have a fever, but was sick to his stomach and had what Graves called a “mistake out on the floor” right after the final horn that made him feel better but delayed his arrival at the post-game news conference.

“I was going to play regardless,” Heath said emphatically. “It’s all mental toughness. It’s in the mind.

“The thing that really motivated me the whole game was what the TCC coach said about their beast. He said as long as they had their best beast they were going to win. That motivated me the most when I saw that quote. We reminded ourselves of that in practice. They said they had the best beast. Obviously not; they’re going home.”

The TCC beast may have been Dontaevius Garrett, who had 10 points and nine rebounds, but the biggest monster was Stockdale. He hit 11 of 22 shots from the field to lead all scorers, and that was an off night.

If the Fighting Tigers ever had a chance to seize control of the game, coach Reginald Jacobs figured it would have happened in the third quarter when Wood was on the bench with four fouls. They did hold the lead throughout the second half of the quarter, but it was never by more than three and after Nolan hit a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the quarter they never led again.

“I thought at that point we could possibly go ahead and run away with the game, but we just weren’t making the easy buckets,” Jacobs said. “That was our opportunity and I’ll take full blame for not getting ahead at that point. We didn’t seize that opportunity and that kept them in the game.”

Nolan’s other 3-pointer came right after Stockdale hit a 3 to get TCC within 50-48. Stockdale put another one right before it, then Sacred Heart outscored the Tigers 12-3 the rest of the way.

“We’ve been through adversity before,” Heath said. “We’ve been down in games, we’ve been in tough situations where we’re trading baskets; this is nothing we hadn’t seen. I just told myself I don’t have to play like a 10th-grader. I need to play like I’m supposed to, like I’d seen it before, and that’s what it takes to get to Birmingham.”

And now that’s where they’re going.

1A Girls

Spring Garden 45, Woodville 39

JACKSONVILLE – Spring Garden jumped out to a big first-half lead and endured some anxious minutes in the second half, but held on to win its ninth regional title and first since 2010.

The Lady Panthers (32-2) will play South champion Brantley in the 1A girls semifinals noon Monday in the BJCC.

“It’s just a great feeling,” Spring Garden coach Ricky Austin said. “It doesn’t feel any less than the first time we went.

“This group deserves it, they do. They have been so focused since this point last year. If you could put a meter and measure how hard this team has worked and their togetherness and their focus, we’re at the top with that.”

The Lady Panthers roared to a 26-13 halftime lead, but were up only two, 36-34, with 2:28 to play after a 3-pointer by Woodville’s Krystal McGinness. Unfazed, sophomore Savannah Dempsey came right back and buried one of her three 3-pointers to put Spring Garden back up five.

“(Austin) has been preparing us this whole time to make shots,” Dempsey said. “I just want to thank my teammates for getting me open and believing in me for making those shots. Our tradition holds us to a high standard and we want to carry that on.”

The game never got closer than three after Dempsey’s huge 3 and Tykeah Rogers basically sealed it with two free throws inside 30 seconds.

“Their coach (Stormy Stevens) is not going to let them quit,” Austin said. “We knew at halftime there was going to be a storm coming back, pardon the pun. I’m proud of this bunch for their grit because I thought we battled really hard for 32 minutes.”

Rogers had 16 points and 11 rebounds to lead Spring Garden. Dempsey finished with 13 points.


Sacred Heart 65, Talladega County Central 54

TALLADEGA CO. CENTRAL (21-11) – Monterio Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Corey White 2-6 0-0 5, Crystyle Stockdale 11-22 4-5 30, Dontaevius Johnson 3-5 4-10 10, Tervarus Garrett 2-10 3-5 7, Charles Burrell 1-1 0-0 2, Trovell Stockdale 0-0 0-0 0, Devin Wilson 0-0 0-0 0, Brandon Flucker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-44 11-20 54.

SACRED HEART (26-8) – Diante Wood 2-5 9-13 13, Kavarri Ross 3-4 2-2 8, D.J. Heath 9-12 3-6 21, Keith Orlowski 0-0 0-0 0, Kevion Nolan 4-12 11-11 21, Sam Miller 1-2 0-0 2, Darrin Wood 0-1 0-0 0, Bradley Mayfield 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-36 25-32 65.

TCC 11 16 14 13 — 54
Sacred Heart 16 16 10 23 — 65

3-point goals: TCC 5-16 (White 1-4, C. Stockdale 4-10, Garrett 0-2); Sacred Heart 2-7 (Di. Wood 0-1, Nolan 2-6). Rebounds: TCC 27 (Johnson 9), Sacred Heart 25 (Di. Wood 8). Total fouls: TCC 23, Sacred Heart 18. Technical fouls: Miller. Fouled out: Garrett, Miller. Officials: Hill, Burns, Young.


Spring Garden 45, Woodville 39

SPRING GARDEN (32-2) – A.J. Broome 1-2 0-0 3, Darian Gaines 2-3 0-0 6, Madison Sides 1-6 1-5 4, Payton McGinnis 1-1 1-2 3, Tykeah Rogers 6-7 4-8 16, Kaitlyn Rogers 0-0 0-0 0, Kerstin Bryant 0-2 0-1 0, Savannah Dempsey 4-8 2-2 13. Totals 15-29 8-18 45.

WOODVILLE (22-8) – Kelsi Sisk 6-15 2-2 14, Camryn Geiger 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Clark 1-3 0-0 2, Sara Baugh 3-8 0-0 8, Krysta McGinness 3-7 1-2 8, Victoria Bremer 1-1 0-0 2. Tiffany Isbell 1-4 2-2 5, Kaitlyn Sisk 0-0 0-0 0, Bri Houk 0-4 0-0 0, Amina White 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 15-42 5-6 39.

Spring Garden 12 14 7 12 — 45
Woodville 5 8 12 14 — 39

3-point goals: Spring Garden 7-14 (Broome 1-2, Gaines 2-3, Sides 1-3, Bryant 0-1, Dempsey 3-5); Woodville 4-15 (Ke. Sisk 0-1, Clark 0-2, Baugh 2-4, McGinness 1-2, Isbell 1-3, Houk 0-3). Rebounds: Spring Garden 26 (T. Rogers 11), Woodville 21 (Ke. Sisk 6). Total fouls: Spring Garden 9, Woodville 20. Fouled out: Ke. Sisk, Isbell. Officials: Greenhill, Barnett, Cameron

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