E.A. Sports Today

It’s all sunshine for Sacred Heart

‘Silent assassin’ Ross steps up to lift Cardinals to first state championship

Sacred Heart's Kavarri Ross was named tournament MVP after stepping up big for his team in the second half and overtime Friday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Sacred Heart’s Kavarri Ross was named tournament MVP after stepping up big for his team in the second half and overtime Friday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — After losing the inspirational heart of the team midway through the fourth quarter in the biggest game of the year Sacred Heart needed a hero.

Coach Ralph Graves was confident someone would step up, for the Cardinals are more than a one-man operation. It was just a matter of which one of his brilliant underclassmen it would be.

It turned out to be Kavarri Ross.

The sophomore guard Graves called a “silent assassin” scored 17 of his game-28 points after D.J. Heath fouled out and nine in overtime to lead the Cardinals over Sunshine 70-65 in the Class 1A boys final at the BJCC for their first ever state championship in any sport.

Not surprisingly, he was named tournament MVP.

“I was just in the groove and taking what they were giving me,” Ross said. “I was being aggressive and everything was falling for me.

“You never now what’s gonna happen. I could’ve come out today and scored two points, but I came out and had 28.”

Heath is the recognized face of the program and if anyone on the team were expected to have that kind of game it would have been him. But the MVP of the Calhoun County and Northeast Regional tournaments through whom everything the Cardinals do goes fouled out with 5:04 left in regulation and the Cards soon to be down 46-42.

Lesser focused teams might have caved at that point; the Cardinals (26-8) just went to the next man.

“I don’t think we were scared; I think the fans and the spectators were more nervous than we were,” Graves said. “You’ve got to put five players out there and the players we put in we trust them also. When D.J. went out, the players were like, ‘Coach, we still believe that we can win.’

“D.J.’s not the team. He’s a big piece to the team but he’s not the team and everybody just rallied together around D.J. When D.J. fouled out he was the one in the huddle saying ‘C’mon, man, we’ve gotta keep believing.’

“Kavarri, I can’t say enough about him. What did he have, 28 and 11 (rebounds)? That’s the most rebounds he’s had all season combined — and he did it in the state championship game. I’m just happy for the way the boys persevered.”

It wasn’t unusual for Ross to have gone off like that. He has scored 30 twice before this season. On this day he was 10 of 18 from the field.

Not only did he score big in overtime, he came up big at the end of regulation. His two free throws with 3.5 seconds left sent the game to overtime after Herbert Jones gave the Tigers (28-5) the lead with 10.3 seconds to play.

“I knew I had to make those free throws; I didn’t want to be the one to blow the game,” Ross said. “I just wanted to make the shots, and I did.”

Ross scored six points in a row in the overtime, including two baskets that got favorable rolls on the rim, in the stretch where the Cardinals extended their lead to eight points. The Cardinals scored the first four points in overtime — with Ross, of course, getting it started — and never trailed.

Diante Wood and Kevion Nolan joined Ross on the all-tournament team. Wood had 15 points — all in the second half — and 15 rebounds. Nolan added 10 points.

“We’ve been wanting this forever, since we’ve been on varsity,” Wood said. “We’re finally here and it’s a great feeling. We hope to come back next year and win it again.”

Jones led four Sunshine scorers in double figures with 21 points.

Sacred Heart 70, Sunshine 65 (OT)

SACRED HEART (26-8) – Diante Wood 3-9 9-14 15, Kavarri Ross 10-18 7-8 28, DJ Heath 3-10 2-2 9, Keith Orlowski 1-1 0-0 2, Kevion Nolan 4-15 0-0 10, Sam Miller 1-3 2-3 4, Darrin Wood 1-2 0-2 2. Totals 23-58 20-29 70.

SUNSHINE (28-5) – Herbert Jones 5-16 11-6 21, Lucky Travis 5-13 1-3 14, Walter Jones 5-11 3-6 13, Keonta Edwards 5-17 4-6 14, D’Angelo Rox 0-0 0-0 0, LeAndrew Myers 0-0 0-0 0, Eddie Fikes 0-3 0-0 0, Michael Poole 0-0 0-0 0, LeAnthony Myers 0-0 0-0 0, DeVonte Myers 1-4 0-0 2, Calvin Jones 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 21-65 20-33 65.

Sacred Heart 13 13 12 16 16 — 70
Sunshine 9 11 21 13 11 — 65

3-point goals: Sacred Heart 4-11 (Ross 1-2, Heath 1-1, Nolan 2-8); Sunshine 3-8 (H. Jones 0-1, Travis 3-6, W. Jones 0-1). Rebounds: Sacred Heart 47 (Di. Wood 15, Ross 11); Sunshine 42 (W. Jones 11). Total fouls: Sacred Heart 22, Sunshine 20. Fouled out: Heath, W. Jones, Edwards. Officials: Booker, Cameron, Pike.

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