E.A. Sports Today

Lady Cards hold on

Sacred Heart girls come through adversity to win their first-ever County Tournament game; Weaver, Alexandria win handily

Caleigh Cortez was all over the floor for Weaver Saturday night. She scored 18 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and continually got Mariah Thompson open looks. (Photo by Dave Brandsma)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — The Sacred Heart girls scored their first-ever win in the Calhoun County Basketball Tournament Saturday in a game that had a whole tournament’s worth of drama.

The young Lady Cardinals held on to beat area rival Jacksonville Christian 42-40 in Jacksonville State’s Pete Mathews Coliseum, overcoming a ton of adversity to do it.

To start with, they were missing four regulars who left on a weekend religious retreat earlier in the morning. One of them was their best defensive player and another gives them a rebounding presence off the bench — two elements they desperately needed down the stretch when their depth issues were further complicated by their best ball-handler (Myiah Harris) and rebounder (Ayanna Foster) fouling out of the game.

“It’s a start,” Sacred Heart coach Marquita McMurray said. “Today, a rough day, but I told the girls it didn’t matter if we had six or seven only five can be on the court at one time. I think they were a little nervous coming in.

“I told the girls when they do good, I tell them they do good, but I never, ever want them to feel like they’re just the best. I understand our boys program has a huge (reputation) to uphold, but like I told the girls I want them to remain humble. We have a lot we have to work on, but we only have one junior, so we have a group that going to be together for maybe the next three or four years, so I’m excited about that.”

In the players’ absence, seventh-grader Amarie Curry and tenth-grader Abbie Vingers stepped up. Curry scored all of her points in the second half. Vingers had six in the third quarter as the Lady Cardinals built a big lead. Harris scored 16 before fouling out.

The Lady Cardinals led by 16 early in the fourth quarter and appeared headed for a comfortable victory, but without the rebounding and defensive help, JCA rallied and had it within one with 1:01 to play. But the Lady Thunder just couldn’t get the go-ahead points.

They had six chances to take the lead and couldn’t convert any. The frustrating part was most of them were around the basket. Perhaps the most damaging were three consecutive possessions that included two missed free throws, a missed layup and a traveling violation on a breakaway layup in a 41-40 game with 26.6 seconds left.

Despite those missed opportunities JCA still had one last chance to tie in the final 2.6 seconds. But Vingers stole the Lady Thunder’s inbounds pass at midcourt and the Lady Cardinals were able to run out the clock.

“I was just at the right place at the right moment,” Vingers said.

The win sends them to play fifth-seeded White Plains Monday at noon. The four girls on retreat will be back, so the Lady Cardinals are expected to be at full strength.

Weaver 68, Faith Christian 26

Mariah Thompson disrupts the drive of Faith’s Logan Boyd. (Photo by Dave Brandsman)

By Brant Locklier
For East Alabama Sports Today

For the Lady Bearcats, Caleigh Cortez is the straw that stirs the drink.

The freshman guard was all over the place. She scored 18 points, hauled down 13 rebounds and fed leading scorer Mariah Thompson many assists on her way to a game-high 26 points.

“Caleigh Cortez controls how we play,” Weaver coach Gary Atchley said. “She does all the little things that help us as a team. She works the hardest on her game and is one of those true basketball players that can do it all on the court.”

The Bearcats (10-8) may be the No. 10 seed in the tournament, but they’re not playing like a first-day draw.

”We are not a No. 10 seed and we will be here to play (6 p.m.) Monday against 6A Oxford,” Atchley said.

The Lady Lions scored first in the game, but Weaver answered with 10 straight points to take a lead it would never give up. A 13-point run in the second quarter opened up 25-5 lead.

Thompson was devastating in the first half as she poured in 20 points and gathered five rebounds. Cortez was equally impressive with 10 points and seven boards as Weaver led 39-17 at the half.

The full court press and pressure defense created turnover after turnover as the Bearcats reeled off 18 straight third-quarter points.

“I love this team,” said Atchley. “We try to push the ball and love to press and run. That is our game. Our girls have bought in to what we are trying to do and are a fun bunch to watch and coach. We have laughed together and cried together to get to this point and we are looking forward to playing our next tournament game.”

Alexandria 58, Saks 38

Alexandria’s Kameron Simpson goes through Saks’ Miracle Dennard (20) and Amya Carlisle to deliver a pass. (Photo by Kristen Stringer/KrispPics Photography)

It is not often that a coach can be happy when his team is outscored 23-3 over the last 13 minutes of a game, but that was case for Alexandria coach Craig Kiker.

The good news was his team was up by 42 points early in the third quarter.

”I have not been in many games like this,” said Kiker.” I usually have lost when this was the case, but we played real well tonight.”

It was like watching the piranha feed in the first quarter.

Alexandria reeled off 19 straight points to open up a 25-2 lead that basically decided the game before everyone could be seated.

The Lady Cubs were everywhere. Destiny Heathcock was dropping in shots inside the lane and Bre Bradford was dominating the boards. Kayleigh Steen, Sarah Kilgore and Kameron Simpson were knocking home 3s and the defense was creating a seemingly endless supply of turnovers. The Valley Cubs led 40-12 at halftime.

It was one of those nights where almost nothing went right for the ninth-seeded Lady Wildcats, who only had eight players dressed.

They did have some success in the third quarter as they ended it on a 10-1 run behind the scoring of Miracle Dennard and Keidra Borden to chop the lead to 57-26.

Alexandria was led by Bradford’s 16 points and six rebounds. Heathcock chipped in with 14 points and six rebounds. Shelby Lowery came off the bench to score seven points and pull down seven rebounds.

“We had a lot of people score tonight and got great guard play,” Kiker said. “We are a better team when we can get everybody involved.”

Dennard led Saks with 14 points, and Borden had 13 points.

The win sends the eighth-seeded Lady Cubs to play top-seeded Anniston Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“Anniston is going to give us a real challenge, but I told our kids that we are going to have to play the best to win this tournament and we get our chance on Tuesday,” Kiker said. – Brant Locklier

Sacred Heart 42, Jacksonville Christian 40
Abby Vingers 4 0-2 8, Sydney Marion 1 0-0 2, Ayanna Foster 4 0-2 9, Jacque Beyerle 0 0-0 0, Myiah Harris 5 5-7 15, Amarie Curry 3 2-4 8. Totals 17 7-15 42.

JACKSONVILLE CHRISTIAN – Kylie Cupp 2 2-3 6, Hayley Moses 1 4-12 6, Briah Cupp 2 7-8 11, Kayla Barnes 4 1-2 13, Sidney Hancock 2 0-0 4. Totals 11 14-25 40.

Sacred Heart 9 9 18 6 — 42
Jacksonville Christian 10 3 9 18 — 40

3-point goals: Sacred Heart 1 (Foster), JCA 4 (Barnes 4). Fouled out: K. Cupp, Foster, Harris. Total fouls: Sacred Heart 22, JCA 16.

Weaver 68, Faith Christian 26
Caleigh Cortez 9 0-2 18, Tayanna Perry 2 0-1 4, Rayne Beck 2 1-2 5, Emily Reed 1 0-0 3, Anna Howell 0 1-2 1, Hannah Roberts 1 0-0 3, Mariah Thompson 7 10-11 24, Abby Gaines 3 0-2 6, Amira Carter 2 0-0 4. Totals 27 12-20 68.

FAITH CHRISTIAN – Logan Boyd 3 0-0 7, Kassidy Nix 0 0-0 0, Emily Sills 2 0-0 5, Shelley Phillips 1 0-0 2, Montana Huie 1 0-0 2, Sarah Christjohn 0 0-0 0, Zana Christjohn 0 0-0 0, Kristin Covington 1 2-5 5, Sydnee Johnson 0 0-0 0, C.J. Setters 2 0-0 5, Regan Crosby 0 0-0 0, Sarah McVeigh 0 0-0 0. Totals 10 2-5 26.

Weaver 19 20 20 9 — 68
Faith Christian 5 12 3 6 — 26

3-point goals: Weaver 2 (Reed, Roberts); Faith 4 (Boyd, Sills, Covington, Setters).

Alexandria 59, Saks 39
Destiny Heathcock 6 2-2 14, Kayleigh Steen 1 0-0 3, Kameron Simpson 2 1-2 6, Sarah Kilgore 3 0-0 7, Bre Bradford 8 0-0 16, Alierra Bradford 1 0-0 2, Kaitlin Harvey 2 0-4 4, Molly Parker 0 0-0 0, Lauryn McLaughlin 0 0-0 0, Allison Bonds 0 0-0 0, Janizia Ross 0 0-0 0, Shelby Lowery 3 1-2 7. Totals 36 4-10 59.

SAKS – Izzy Shaver 1 0-0 2, Amya Carlisle 1 2-4 4, Keidra Borden 5 2-4 13, Amari Nealy 1 0-0 2, Summer Baxter 2 0-0 4, Miracle Dennard 5 3-4 14, Madison Tate 0 0-0 0, Alexis Petty 0 0-0 0. Totals 15 7-12 39.

Alexandria 27 13 17 2 — 59
Saks 4 8 14 13 — 39

3-point goals: Alexandria 3 (Steen, Simpson, Kilgore); Saks 2 (Borden, Dennard).

On the cover: Weaver’s Rayne Beck gets out in front of the pack against Faith Christian. (Photo by Dave Brandsma).
To see more of Kristen Stringer’s pictures from the Calhoun County Tournament, visit www.krisppicsphotography.photoreflect.com
To see more of Dave Brandsma’s pictures from the Calhoun County Tournament, visit www.camerainnandbikes.com

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