E.A. Sports Today

On familiar ground

Sacred Heart makes county final for fourth straight year, but without Diante Wood after a two-tech ejection

Sacred Heart’s D.J. Heath (5) makes an aggressive move to the basket against White Plains. Heath scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half Friday and has scored 42 points in the second half of his last two games. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

2017 Calhoun County Boys Tournament thru semifinals – BOYS BRACKET
(Bracket by Kurt Duryea)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE — Sacred Heart has made its way to the finals of the Calhoun County Tournament for the fourth year in a row, but it will go into the game with heavy hearts and without one of its main weapons.

The top-seeded, top-ranked Cardinals punched their ticket to the finals with a 76-49 win over White Plains. The Cardinals are likely to play Oxford, which takes a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter on Anniston in the other semifinal.

Before the team comes to Pete Mathews Coliseum to play either No. 2 Oxford or No. 3 Anniston in the 8 p.m. title game, Cardinals coach Ralph Graves will be attending the 1 p.m. funeral of his wife’s grandmother, Mary Sanders, who passed away last Friday.

Graves has loving memories of Sanders and described her as a rock during the Cardinals’ toughest times this season, always encouraging him to keep fighting when things appeared bleak.

“She would want us to come up here and win,” Graves said.

The players have dedicated their effort this week to their coach and his family. They have won their two tournament games by an average margin of 30 points.

The Cardinals will go into their fourth straight county championship game without Diante Wood. The junior post scored 23 points against the Wildcats and was the driving force in the second quarter when the Cardinals seized control of the game, but he later got ejected for his second technical foul of the game – both after rim-hanging dunks.

Sacred Heart principal Charlie Maniscalco confirmed Wood would not be able to play in the championship game. Wood was among the five Cardinals suspended for what turned out to be six games earlier this season for leaving the bench area in their home game with Spring Garden.

“One thing I do understand about this and I want my kids to understand is that there’s a price to pay when you’re too good, and that’s sad,” Graves said after returning to the arena to watch the Oxford-Anniston game. “Because when you (stink) there is no price to pay. That’s just terrible. It is what it is.”

The Cardinals (18-7) have all their other weapons and even with Wood on the bench they remain a formidable force.

“We’re going to go about our business as usual,” Graves said.

They got another big game from D.J. Heath Friday. The senior guard scored 29 points and had a huge second half for the second game in a row (21 points). He scored 20 in the second half of their Tuesday win over Piedmont.

“I’m just mentally tough,” he said. “I just know that I have to get to the highest level of my game and that’s what I practice and train. My teammates do a good job of helping me not worry about the next play, moving on. I missed a lot shots in the first half, but coach Ralph told me to keep shooting they were going to fall. Everything worked out perfect.”

Michael McGuirk led White Plains (17-5) with 21 points. Macey Carr had 10, including a thrilling 3-pointer from three-quarters court that beat the third-quarter buzzer.

Sacred Heart 76, White Plains 49
Peyton Morgan 1 0-0 2, Dylan McCareeth 0 2-2 2, Justin Foster 2 0-0 4, Austin Bussey 0 0-0 0, Andrew McCarter 1 0-0 3, Michael McGuirk 4 11-12 21, Drake Preston 0 0-0 0, Jaylen Jackson 1 0-0 2, Macey Carr 4 1-2 10, Gavin Burrage 0 3-4 3, Brett Beaver 1 0-0 2. Totals 14 17-20 49.

SACRED HEART (18-7) – Jaylin Croft 0 0-0 0, Diante Wood 10 1-5 23, Murdock Simmons 3 0-0 6, D.J. Heath 11 3-3 29, Caleb Lafollette 1 0-0 3, Dakota Myers 1 0-0 2, Stephen Stansil 0 0-0 0, JonRiley Miller 0 0-2 0,Kevion Nolan 2 2-2 7, Khalil Watkins 3 0-0 6. Totals 31 6-10 76.

White Plains 13 7 16 13 — 49
Sacred Heart 19 15 21 21 — 76

3-point goals: White Plains 4 (McCarter, McGuirk 2, Carr); Sacred Heart 8 (Wood 2, Heath 4, Lafollette, Nolan). Technical fouls: Wood 2. Fouled out: Wood. Total fouls: White Plains 12. Sacred Heart 19. Officials: Lail, Hodge, Madsen.

Diante Wood attacks the rim during a dunk in the second half Friday. Wood authored some impressive slams, but he also was ejected with two technical fouls for hanging on the rim, action that will keep him out of tonight’s championship game. (B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

To see more B.J. Franklin photos from the Calhoun County Tournament, visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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