E.A. Sports Today

Defending champs roll in debut

Last team to play, top-ranked Cardinals make a big splash on their first play, pull away from Piedmont in the second half

Diante Wood (1) deposits Sacred Heart's first points of the 2016 Calhoun County Tournament Wednesday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Diante Wood (1) deposits Sacred Heart’s first points of the 2016 Calhoun County Tournament Wednesday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Sacred Heart was the last team to tip in the 2016 Calhoun County Tournament and judging from its first play of the game the Cardinals were jumping out of the gym to get started.

Their first play of the tournament after sitting out the opening two rounds was an “oak tree” alley oop from Kevion Nolan to Diante Wood and they carried on from there.

The top seed and defending champions went on to beat Piedmont 88-56 at Pete Mathews Coliseum. They will now play Oxford in the semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m.

“We are excited to be here,” Cardinals coach Ralph Graves said. “If we’re in the tournament, we come to play and we’re going to be up for it just like everybody else.”

The Cardinals wasted little time showing their enthusiasm. Wood broke free from the jump and Nolan found him flying high and alone by the basket.

A crisp throw down the court and that quickly Sacred Heart had the lead. The fact the Cardinals could run that set out of the gate indicated they could run any set they wanted.

“We just come out to bring high intensity, so we were going to start off with a dunk to bring the crowd into it and bring high intensity,” Wood said. “This is prime time for us. We like playing night games like this, late games, because all the fans come out and it brings us up. We were ready to come and play tonight.”

Five players scored in double figures for the Heart, including four starters. D.J. Heath, the MVP of last year’s tournament, had 22 points. Wood had 16. Nolan had 19. Kavarri Ross had 12 – all in the second half — and Murdock Simmons, the non-starter, had 13.

Piedmont gave the Cardinals a battle early. It was 11-11, then the Cardinals scored the next nine points to pull ahead. The Bulldogs cut it back to two twice in the second quarter, then Nolan and Simmons connected on back-to-back 3s to help the Cardinals take a 41-30 halftime lead.

Sacred Heart scored 29 in the third quarter to put the game away.

“We picked up really well defensively in the second half,” Graves said. “That was good because we got a lot of kids (in). Our rotation is coming … I was happy for Stephen Stancil; he made some big shots, played some really good defense. Kavarri played really well defensively, picking up full-court. I think he had about 7 or 8 steals there, so he did really well.”

Darnell Jackson led Piedmont with 20 points. Easton Kirk had 14 with four 3-pointers.

Sacred Heart 88, Piedmont 56

PIEDMONT – Darnell Jackson 8-12 2-2 20, Easton Kirk 5-10 0-1 14, Taylor Hayes 3-10 3-5 9, Austin Brazier 2-4 3-4 7, Bayley Blanchard 2-5 2-2 6, Justin Young 0-1 0-1 0, A.J. Fairs 0-0 0-0 0, Malik Gamble 0-1 0-0 0, Brett Akin 0-1 0-0 0, Derreck Baer 0-0 0-0 0, Cardavian Myers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-44 10-15 56.

SACRED HEART – D.J. Heath 9-15 3-4 22, Kevion Nolan 8-11 0-0 19, Diante Wood 6-11 4-5 16, Mudrock Simmons 5-9 1-2 13, Kavarri Ross 4-11 2-3 12, Stephen Stancil 2-3 0-0 6, Sam Miller 0-1 0-0 0, Jon Riley Miller 0-1 0-2 0, Caleb Lafollette 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 34-62 10-17 88.

Piedmont 12 18 15 11 — 56
Sacred Heart 20 21 29 18 — 88

3-point goals: Piedmont 6-19 (Jackson 2-5, Kirk 4-9, Hayes 0-1, Blanchard 0-1, Young 0-1); Sacred Heart 10-20 (Heath 1-2, Nolan 3-5, Wood 0-1, Simmons 2-4, Ross 2-5, Stancil 2-3). Rebounds: Piedmont 24 (Hayes 6); Sacred Heart 38 (Wood 10, Nolan 8). Total fouls: Piedmont 14, Sacred Heart 17. Officials: Hill, Cochran, Williams.

Sacred Heart's Kavarri Ross (2) tries to make a midair adjustment to get around Piedmont's Darnell Jackson. Ross scored all 12 of his points in the second half Wednesday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Sacred Heart’s Kavarri Ross (2) tries to make a midair adjustment to get around Piedmont’s Darnell Jackson. Ross scored all 12 of his points in the second half Wednesday. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)



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