E.A. Sports Today

Title rematch

Top seeds Sacred Heart, Oxford square off in first Calhoun County Boys Tournament title rematch since 2007

Oxford’s leading scorer Braden Mack puts up a one-handed shot between Saks’ Tyler Smith (23) and Darien Briskey. (All photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Saturday’s semifinals
Sacred Heart 55, Anniston 45
Oxford 84, Saks 31

Monday’s game
(at Jacksonville State)

Championship: No. 1 Sacred Heart vs. No. 2 Oxford, 8 p.m.

To see a gallery of photos from the boys semifinals visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – Oxford coach Joel Van Meter can’t recall if he’s ever had a basketball team shoot it from the outside the way his Yellow Jackets did Saturday night in the Calhoun County Tournament semifinals against Saks.

The second-seeded Jackets came out firing and rarely missed. They hit six 3-pointers in the first quarter and opened a 23-point lead on the way to an 84-31 win that sent them into the tournament finals for the second year in a row.

They will meet top-seeded Sacred Heart in the championship game Monday at 8 p.m. It’s the first tournament title game rematch since Alexandria and Anniston did it in 2007 as part of a 20-year run in which either Anniston or Alexandria were in the final.

The Yellow Jackets made 11 3-pointers in the game. Eight players made at least one. Simeon Shadrix, who will go to mid-court Monday night for a shot at $10,000 (see related story), had the most – three.

The long-range shooting helped them open a 14-0 lead that became 29-6 by the end of the first quarter. They had eight 3-pointers by halftime, when they held a 49-18 lead.

“I thought we were good defensively and set the tone, but the difference is when you’re chucking in 3s like that,” Van Meter said. “We had 1 through 6 making 3s. When you can do that, you’re going to separate a game real quick.”

“We’ve been shooting a lot in practice and working on getting shots up so we prepared and it paid off tonight,” Shadrix said.

Saks is a dangerous team from outside the arc as well – they made 18 3-pointers in their first two tournament wins — but the Jackets held them to only two on this night. The Wildcats had only nine field goals in the game and had no scorer in double figures.

Van Meter admitted he was worried about his team maintaining its defensive edge coming out of halftime with such the big lead, but his mind was set at ease when he discovered the starters wanted to go back out and continue what they had been doing well.

Their 3-point shooting continued in the second half along with the strong defensive posture. Not that they needed them, but they did add three more in the second half.

“It’s all about your mental makeup,” Van Meter said. “I think if you’re locked in, you’re going to shoot it pretty well sometimes. We shot it tonight as well as any team I’ve had shoot it, no doubt.”

As for the matchup in the final, Van Meter predicts it will be “a great game.” The Yellow Jackets won last year’s game 76-68 against a Sacred Heart team playing with star post Diante Wood, but Cardinals coach Ralph Graves noted the reasons for the loss went well beyond that.

The last time there was a rematch in the title game the team that lost the first game came back and won it the next year although history shows its dead even on a split or a sweep.

“We feel good about our team right now where we’re at mentally and physically,” Van Meter said. “I think it’s going to be a battle, a war.”

Cardinals back in finals

Sacred Heart’s Diante Wood goes in for a layup against the defense of Anniston’s Theron Montgomery (33).

Diante Wood can count on one hand the number of times in his high school career he hasn’t played in the Calhoun County Tournament final. Of course, it would have to be the “other” hand because the first one would rightfully account for the five – consecutive – trips he’ll be taking to the title game after helping Sacred Heart put away Anniston 55-45.

Wood has been playing with the Sacred Heart varsity since seventh grade. The Cardinals were put out in an early round by Saks that year – Woods had his coming-out game that day — but they haven’t missed playing for it all since. They’ve even won it once – 2015, the year they started their current run of three straight Class 1A state championships.

The Alabama signee sustained a leg injury early in the second quarter of Friday’s quarterfinal win over Weaver and didn’t play in the second half of a lopsided game, but he was ready to go Saturday and led all scorers with 25 points.

Anniston made Wood and his teammates work for their spot in this year’s title game. Savion Bethune’s 3-pointer at the first-quarter horn gave the Bulldogs a 17-10 lead and the Cardinals didn’t get their first lead until Wood’s reverse layup and one right before the end of the second quarter gave it a 25-23 halftime lead.

“That was pretty big to give us our first lead of the game,” Wood said.

And once they had the lead they never lost it. It was a four-point game after three quarters, but Josh Brown and Victor Wilson opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Cardinals the breathing room they enjoyed the rest of the game. The Bulldogs never got closer than eight in the fourth.

“Closing the game is better than starting the game, especially if you win,” Sacred Heart coach Ralph Graves said. “I was really proud of how the boys played together and kept their heads and played real tough. We’ll come out here Monday hungry and try to win it.”

Sacred Heart’s Murdock Simmons (4) barrels his way to the basket between Anniston’s James Haynes (11) and William Fairley.


Sacred Heart 55, Anniston 45
ANNISTON (9-11) –
Savion Bethune 3 2-2 9, James Haynes 1 0-0 2, Jimmie Felton 0 0-0 0, William Fairley 4 0-1 9, Dontavious Davis 7 0-0 14, LaDreka Hall 3 3-4 9, Theron Montgomery 1 0-0 2. Totals 19 5-7 45.

SACRED HEART (12-10) – Quin Riggins 1 5-6 8, Diante Wood 7 11-12 25, Victor Wilson 2 0-0 5, Murdock Simmons 1 0-2 2, Joshua Brown 1 0-0 3, Stephen Stansil 1 2-2 4, Khalil Watkins 3 0-0 8. Totals 16 18-24 55.

Anniston 17 6 9 13 — 45
Sacred Heart 11 14 11 19 — 55

3-point goals: Anniston 2 (Bethune, Fairley); Sacred Heart 5 (Riggins, Wilson, Brown, Watkins 2). Total fouls: Anniston 18, Sacred Heart 13. Officials: Brown, Dukes, Shirey.

Oxford 84, Saks 31
Darien Briskey 1 4-8 6, DeVaunghn Beason 2 3-4 7, Laderrick Bell 1 0-0 3, Brent Clark 0 0-0 0, C.J. Lauderdale 1 0-1 4, Zay Elston 0 4-4 4, Daveon Dukes 1 0-0 2, Tyler Smith 3 0-2 6. Totals 9 11-19 31.

OXFORD – Markise Davis 3 0-0 8, Simeon Shadrix 3 2-2 11, Mont McClendon 1 0-0 3, Roc Taylor 5 2-3 12, Kendrick Foster 2 0-0 5, Eugene Leonard 4 0-1 9, Kobe Warren 2 0-0 5, Braden Mack 7 4-5 19, Trafton Houck 1 1-2 3, Rylen Houck 0 0-0 0, Tocorrie Russell 4 0-0 9. Totals 32 9-13 84.

Saks 6 12 4 9 — 31
Oxford 29 20 26 9 — 84

3-point goals: Saks 2 (Bell, Lauderdale); Oxford 11 (Davis 2, Shadrix 3, McClendon, Foster, Leonard, Warren, Mack, Russell). Total fouls: Saks 14, Oxford 18. Officials: Burns, Larkins, Bright.

Oxford’s Mont McClendon tries to scoop the ball into the basket after getting past Saks’ Jaylen Young (15).


2005-06: Alexandria 66, Anniston 61
2006-07: Anniston 74, Alexandria 60

1998-99: Alexandria 62, Anniston 61
1999-00: Anniston 63, Alexandria 58
2000-01: Anniston 60, Alexandria 50

1992-93: Anniston 83, Oxford 70
1993-94: Anniston 64, Oxford 54

1978-79: Anniston 67, Jacksonville 50
1979-80: Anniston 61, Jacksonville 55

1974-75: Jacksonville 69, Oxford 61
1975-76: Jacksonville 53, Oxford 52
1976-77: Oxford 61, Jacksonville 59

1971-72: Anniston 88, Cobb 82
1972-73: Cobb 65, Anniston 63-x

1959-60: Alexandria 46, Oxford 39
1960-61: Oxford 55, Alexandria 54

1957-58: Anniston 55, Alexandria 53
1958-59: Anniston 77, Alexandria 66

x-Tournament split into Big School/Little School brackets

Anniston’s Savion Bethune (10) drives past Sacred Heart’s Quin Riggins on his way to the basket.

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