E.A. Sports Today

Nolan never out

Junior guard rebounds from a scoreless first half to score 20 points and help Sacred Heart get back to the state championship game

Kevion Nolan (23) goes around Keith's Justyn Pettway for two of his 20 second-half points in Friday's Class 1A state semifinal game. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

Kevion Nolan (23) goes around Keith’s Justyn Pettway for two of his 20 second-half points in Friday’s Class 1A state semifinal game. (Photos by Kristen Stringer/Krisp Pics Photography)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

BIRMINGHAM — At halftime, Kevion Nolan’s line in the box score looked nothing like any line he had had during the season.

The Sacred Heart junior guard had missed all five shots he attempted – all from 3-point range – had 0 points, 3 fouls, 2 assists and 3 turnovers. The Cardinals were leading by one.

Nolan wasn’t discouraged. His teammates were talking him up. Cardinals assistant coach Quintarius (Mook) Hutchison called him over and offered words of encouragement.

“He pulled Kevion to the side and told him you keep believing, it’s going to come,” Cardinals head coach Ralph Graves said. “It may not come sooner, but later, and it actually came later.”

Better later than never. Nolan broke out the way a 20-point scorer can. He scored 20 points in the second half and was a driving force in the Cardinals rally to beat Keith 75-67 in the boys Class 1A state semifinals at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center.

“As a basketball player I know that I’m going to have my drops, but I told myself I can’t let my team down now,” Nolan said. “They kept telling me, ‘Kevion, c’mon, give us something.’

“Right before we stepped out in the third quarter, before I made my first shot, Diante (Wood) said ‘I feel one,’ and he told me, ‘Crank it up. Crank it up.’ And Kavarri (Ross) made a statement saying ‘What’s all the stuff you were talking at the beginning of the game? I ain’t seeing it.’ So I knew I had to do it.”

Nolan finally got on the board three minutes into the third quarter with his first 3-pointer. His second gave the Cardinals an eight-point lead 30 seconds later.

He scored 14 points in the fourth quarter, 7-of-8 from the free throw line in the crucial final three minutes, five in the final 40 seconds.

“We can’t go anywhere without Kevion; he is a huge part to our team,” Graves said. “To have a 20-point half is a tremendous skill set and a tremendous focus on his part to keep fighting.”

Just as Nolan came to life in the second half, John Pettway did his absolute best to give the Bears a chance.

The senior scored 34 points and 10 rebounds in what was an emotional final high school game for reasons other than it bringing the curtain down on his career.

His grandmother, Dorothy Pettway, collapsed during the girls game and was treated by arena medical personnel before being transported to a nearby hospital.

“Somebody grabbed me and said she was going to be all right, but I just wanted to see her,” he said.

Pettway sat off to the side as his grandmother was receiving attention in the tunnel behind the bench. He eventually returned to the Bears’ dressing room where he cried and prayed before the game and used that for strength against the Cardinals.

He took over the end of the third quarter, scoring the last 10 points in a 12-0 run after Nolan’s second 3-pointer that gave the Bears a 50-46 lead. They went into the fourth quarter leading by one.

“It took a toll on me,” Pettway said. “I went in the locker room and prayed. It gave me strength. I just put it in my mind I’m going to give it all to my grandmom, my family and my teammates. They had been with me the whole time I just wanted to make them proud. I didn’t know it was going to be my last game. I hope they’re proud of me, too.”

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