E.A. Sports Today

Cardinals take down another giant

1A Sacred Heart topples 7A Gadsden City in double OT; Anniston falls in controversial finish, Saks wins

By East Alabama Sports Today

Sacred Heart proved once again that classification is only a number and when it comes to playing basketball it’s the five on the floor that matters more than the thousands in the halls.

The 1A Cardinals scored their fourth win of the season over a behemoth 7A, beating Gadsden City in a packed gym at the Anniston Aquatics and Fitness Center Thursday 92-88 in double overtime.

Gadsden City has 1099 students in the enrollment figures listed for the latest AHSAA reclassification purposes; Sacred Heart is listed with 58.

Earlier this season, the Cardinals (21-8), the top-ranked team in 1A, knocked off Spain Park (1252), Mountain Brook (1071) and Prattville (1521). They lost a close one to Gadsden City in their season opener. They beat 6A Oxford on the way to a runner-up finish in the Calhoun County Tournament.

“We’re at a small school, but we have some of the best players in the state of Alabama,” Cardinals coach Ralph Graves said. “If every small school had what we have here, it wouldn’t matter, but every school doesn’t.

“Now it’s gotten to the point where it’s a basketball game rather than how many kids go to the school. It becomes a quality of kid rather than quantity of kids. Right now I’m really blessed at Sacred Heart to have a core group that’s battle tested. That’s the biggest difference.

“What most would look at when a 7A loses to a 1A, they would downplay and say the 7A may not be as good, but if you’re a true evaluator of basketball, you would look at it and say that’s a 1A school but that’s a quality basketball team. So, write our team off for its quality of play rather than what classification you’re in.”

Kevion Nolan had 30 points and Diante Wood had 22 to lead Sacred Heart. Wood scored seven in the two overtimes, including the two free throws that sealed it, and Nolan had nine. Graves also praised the play of Murdock Simmons, Kavarri Ross and the poise of his guards in general. Simmons scored 13 and Ross had 15 (six in the overtimes).

The key to winning was making free throws, not taking many ill-advised shots and getting defensive stops they weren’t getting earlier in the game.

“Kevion played really well in the overtimes; he made some big buckets,” Graves said. “Murdock and Kavarri, those two played huge. Murdock played a really good game; he rebounded the ball, he helped handle the ball, he was driving, getting in the paint. Kavarri took maybe two ill-advised charges, but he was determined to get in there. You can’t hardly tell that horse not to run. They did well.”

The Titans, ranked No. 6 in 7A this week, forced both the overtime and the second overtime. Kalin Johnson tied the game with 13 seconds left in regulation, then the Titans missed two free throws that would’ve won it. They hit a 3 at the buzzer to force the second overtime.

“Gadsden is a really good program,” Graves said. “You’re looking at this part of the state, especially Northeast, Gadsden is one of the premier schools. Not only with them being so much of a big school, they have some really good players there.

“Just to have the opportunity to play them in a regular season is huge because most teams don’t play the regular season. (Titans coach Reginald Huff) sat down with me last year and told me ‘I’ve been through what you’ve been through when I was at Litchfield. We were the small school, but we had the athletes, if not more athletes than everybody else, so I will schedule because I know what it’s like.’

“I’m just thankful for that and blessed to have that opportunity, and us winning a close game like that, that’s pretty big for us.”

Talladega 48, Anniston 47: Robert Houston’s putback with five seconds left gave the Tigers the lead and a capped a controversial end to a close game.

The crucial sequence began when Talladega was awarded a jump ball that was supposed to go to Anniston. But because both scorebooks had Talladega getting the ball and the scorer hadn’t changed the possessions arrow at the table, it went to the Tigers.

With the clock winding down, Jarvis Mackenzie missed a layup and Jamontae Twymon missed his putback, but Houston was there to follow it home.

Houston finished with 10 points. Jay Smoot led Talladega with 17. Anniston’s DeQuan Ross led all scorers with 18 points. Tray Croft added 12.

Saks 59, Clay Central 54: Jaylen Britt scored 20 points with five 3-pointers and two other players scored in double figures for Saks. Davyn Flenord scored 10 of his 20 points in a 29-point third quarter that catapulted the Volunteers into the lead heading into the fourth quarter.


Talladega 48, Anniston 47

ANNISTON – Marrio Dobbins 2 0-0 4, Tray Croft 5 0-1 12, Davion Tippins 2 0-2 4, Willie Thomas 2 1-2 5, DeQuan Ross 8 0-0 18, Chris Beard 2 0-0 4. Totals 21 1-5 47.

TALLADEGA – Fred Dickerson 0 0-0 0, Jay Smoot 8 0-4 17, Jarvis McKenzie 4 0-0 9, Ashton Duncan 1 2-2 4, Jamonte Twymon 2 0-0 4, Waderrius Tuck 2 0-0 4, Robert Houston 4 2-2 10, Jaelyn Russ 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 4-8 48

Anniston 18 7 10 12 — 47
Talladega 11 12 13 12 — 48

3-point goals: Anniston 4 (Ross 2, Croft 2); Talladega 2 (Smooth, McKenzie). Total fouls: Anniston 13, Talladega 8. Officials: Robinson, Warren, Stringer.

Saks 59, Clay Central 54

SAKS – Demetrius Powell 3 4-7 10, Quin Smith 1 2-2 4, Jaylen Britt 7 1-2 20, Alfonza Ward 1 2-6 4, Demario Burnett 5 1-3 11, Tray Hughes 2 0-0 4, Darien Briskey 3 0-0 6. Totals 22 10-20 59.

CLAY CENTRAL — Davyn Flenord 7 3-3 20, Dustin Hardy 0 0-0 0, J.T. Burns 0 0-0 0, D.J. Fords 0 0-0 0, Tyler Smith 1 0-0 2, Cameran Peoples 1 3-4 5, Quan McKinney 6 3-3 15, Joe Bullock 1 0-2 3, Dawson Taylor 4 1-2 9. Totals 20 10-14.

Saks 13 16 16 14 — 59
Clay Central 10 11 26 7 — 54

3-point goals: Saks 5 (Britt 5); Clay Central 4 (Flenord 3, Bullock) Total fouls: Saks 11, Clay Central 14. Officials: Oden, Strong, Morniss.

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