E.A. Sports Today

Bulldogs clip Cardinals’ wings

Anniston starts fast, holds on to beat No. 1 Sacred Heart to give retiring coach one last county crown; Bam Ross voted MVP

Capturing the moment of victory as Anniston celebrates its Calhoun County Tournament victory over Sacred Heart. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Capturing the moment of victory as Anniston celebrates its Calhoun County Tournament victory over Sacred Heart. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Jason Katz
For East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – DeQuan Ross and his predictions from earlier in the season were brought to life at Pete Mathews Coliseum Saturday night. For Anniston coach Schuessler Ware, the end of the game brought the end of an era.

At least in the Calhoun County Tournament.

The Anniston Bulldogs beat the top-ranked and No. 1 seeded Sacred Heart Cardinals 64-61 in the boys championship game at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

Ross was the spark that ignited his team as he hit back-to-back 3-pointers to open up the game.

“I have never started a game out like that,” Ross said. “I told you back in Alexandria and then again last night that we were the best. Tonight we proved it to everyone.”

The senior center was all smiles as he paraded around with a shiny new possession in his hands – the most valuable player trophy.

“This is my first MVP trophy at Anniston and I couldn’t be more excited,” he said. “I just wanted to put the team on my back tonight and do something positive for myself and my team. I wanted to bring this trophy back to my city.”

Ross finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds. He hit five 3-pointers – all in the first half and four in the first quarter. Hakeem Ross had 13 points with 11 coming in the first half. Davion Tippins had 12 points and four rebounds.

For the Bulldogs and Ware the multitude of support shown at the tournament was unmatched. Friday night, East Alabama Sports Today reported Ware is retiring at the end of the season. His retirement date is effective Feb. 1, but he will remain as the coach until the end of the team’s final game.

“It doesn’t get much better than this,” said Ware, who tied legendary Alexandria coach Larry Ginn with his eighth county tournament title. “We fought them hard tonight, and give them credit, they are a great team. Tonight we hit them early and often and you can’t play much better than we did.”

In the shadow of defeat, Sacred Heart coach Ralph Graves praised his team’s fight and talked about his team and expressed his admiration for Ware and the integrity and ability he brought to Anniston.

“I do care about him as a person,” said Graves, who has played and coached for Ware during in his career. “I’ve been knowing Coach Ware my whole life. He always had a knack for winning and to see him go out, that’s pretty tough.

“He’s had a really good run. He’s got numerous county championships, area championships, two state championships – what more can you ask for? He’s the best coach to ever come through Anniston High School.”

Ware’s successor lies in the hands of Anniston principal Sherron Jinadu and athletics director Eddie Bullock. After the game, Bullock visited with the coach but said they didn’t talk of the future. He told him just to enjoy “the third biggest win of his career – State No. 1, State No. 2 and winning at County, his last one before going out.”

The championship game was only closest at the beginning and the end. Dequan and Ross and Sacred Heart’s Kavarri Ross both lit up the scoreboard early as they drained 3s, grabbed rebounds and hit any shot that need be. They combined for 28 of the Bulldogs’ 33 first-half points.

Sacred Heart, usually on the other end of this type of game, came out somewhat flat against the almost flawless play of Anniston.

“They shot the ball well in the first half,” Graves said. “Bam Ross had 15 in the first quarter and they had five 3s. If we came out and hit all five 3s in the first quarter it’d been the same thing.

“Our boys did well the way they came back they fought. Our boys, they are champions; win, lose or draw that shouldn’t change anything we do as a team and I’m proud of the way they fought. You win, you lose, you continue to move forward; it’s not the end of the world.”

Kavarri Ross and Diante Wood both had 18 points for Sacred Heart, which was playing in the final for the third straight year. Wood had six rebounds. Kevion Nolan and D.J. Heath, last year’s tournament MVP, had 10 points apiece.

The shots, for the most part, could not fall for the Cardinals as they tried to close the ever-expanding gap Anniston would create. Whenever one Sacred Heart player would score, right behind it seemed would be the Bulldogs.

Ultimately the second half did create a little bit of excitement as Kavarri Ross and Wood both created multiple opportunities for shots to fall, but it was too little too late. Anniston milked the clock just enough and when the Cardinals cut it to three late in the fourth quarter DeQuan and Hakeem Ross hit three of four free throws to seal the deal for the Bulldogs.

“I just knew that we would need to finish strong,” DeQuan said. “I just took a deep breath and continued to grind. It was so intense and loud, I couldn’t hear coach talking, but I just kept my mind in it and did what I needed to do.

“This was one of our goals for this season. We want to continue on this path and go out on top. We want to do it for Coach, for our team, and our school, but tonight it just feels good to be in this moment.”

On the cover: Anniston’s DeQuan Ross collects the tournament MVP award from Jacksonville assistant principal and tournament director Rusty Thrasher.

Anniston 64, Sacred Heart 61

ANNISTON (16-3) — Marrio Dobbins 2 0-0 4, Tray Croft 3 0-1 7, Hakeem Ross 4 2-2 13, Davion Tippins 4 4-4 12, Willie Thomas 3 0-0 6, DeQuan Ross 8 1-2 22. Totals 24 7-9 64.

SACRED HEART – Diante Wood 8 2-3 18, Kavarri Ross 7 0-0 18, Samuel Miller 0 0-0 0, Murdock Simmons 2 1-1 5, D.J. Heath 4 2-6 10, Kevion Nolan 4 0-2 10. Totals 25 5-12 61.

Anniston 15 18 18 13 — 64
Sacred Heart 8 13 17 23 — 61

3-point goals: Anniston 9 (H. Ross 3, Croft, D. Ross 5); Sacred Heart 6 (K. Ross 4, Nolan 2). Fouled out: Thomas. Total fouls: Anniston 15, Sacred Heart 16. Officials: Hill, Glover, Madaris.


DeQuan Ross, Anniston (MVP)
Tray Croft, Anniston (Offensive MVP)
Diante Wood, Sacred Heart (Defensive MVP)
Caleb McCord, Faith Christian
Josh Faucett, Pleasant Valley
Austin Tucker, Ohatchee
Darnell Jackson, Piedmont
Jaylen Britt, Saks
Luke Tucker, Alexandria
Malik Arnold, Weaver
Jakolbie McClendon, Oxford
Eugene Leonard, Oxford
Jerod Guthrie, White Plains
Kevin Carr, White Plains
Kevion Nolan, Sacred Heart
Willie Thomas, Anniston
D.J. Heath, Sacred Heath
Hakeem Ross, Anniston

Boys tournament MVP DeQuan Ross takes control of a rebound despite the efforts of Sacred Heart's Murdock Simmons (4) in Saturday's boys County Tournament championship game. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Boys tournament MVP DeQuan Ross takes control of a rebound despite the efforts of Sacred Heart’s Murdock Simmons (4) in Saturday’s boys County Tournament championship game. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

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