E.A. Sports Today

New worlds to conquer

Sacred Heart dominates its first game in Class 2A the way it dominated in 1A the last four years

Newcomers Jayden Stone (22) and Allen Marshall combined for 44 points in Sacred Heart’s 81-35 victory over Gaston Tuesday night.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

GASTON – The classification may be different and the opponents and road trips certainly are, but the standards remain the same for the Sacred Heart basketball team: Be the best you can be regardless of the team on the other side.

The Cardinals were moved out of Class 1A this year – victims of their own success, really – and unleashed their juggernaut on the first of what undoubtedly will be another set of overmatched area opponents Tuesday night, throttling Gaston in their Class 2A Area 11 opener 81-35.

They left 1A with an unprecedented four straight state championships and a 61-game winning streak against in-state 1A competition and it was more of the same in their new environment. They have yet to lose in the 2018 calendar year.

“The standard doesn’t change; it doesn’t matter who we play,” Cardinals coach Ralph Graves said. “I think for a lot of people they believe if you move up a classification you should approach it different, but we were playing up in classification ever since I’ve been here.

“It really doesn’t matter. We’re just working on our team and trying to get our team the best that we can get and hoping we can get it to a championship level, an elite level where we can play at the highest level.”

Everybody who played in the game for the Cardinals (2-0) scored. Newcomers Jayden Stone and Allen Marshall had 28 and 16 points, respectively, and returnee Khalil Watkins had 14 (12 in the second half).

They scored the first 12 points of the game and led 39-7 after another Stone dunk late in the second quarter. At one point late in the third quarter the margin was 66-19.

“I think they understand what the standard is and they understand we have to play at a high level,” Graves said. “So, even though sometimes you may play in games that teams probably aren’t that good, it’s not going to be that way all the time so you have to understand you’ve got to prepare yourself and you’ve got to look at long term, so you’re not really playing against your opponent you’re playing against yourself.”

Stone certainly was impressive. The 6-3 junior guard who is getting attention from virtually every major program in the country has scored 30 and 28 in his first two games with the Cardinals. He also had seven rebounds, four assists and a steal Tuesday night.

Graves didn’t make players available for interviews after the game and was reluctant to talk up Stone specifically at this early stage in the season for fear of isolating him from the team dynamic he’s trying to build, but there’s no denying there’s a special talent there. The Australian import was so smooth some front-row watchers observers said it looked like he was moving in slow motion past defenders as he flew to the basket.

Stone gave the crowd their price of admission with two plays midway through the first quarter. Spencer Wigley made a steal off the press and dished to Watkins, who lifted a pass off the glass that Stone finished off with a dunk. Stone then stole the inbounds pass and dunked that one as well.

“I want them to play at a high level and that’s what they’re trying to do,” Graves said. “I’m proud of the way they play, I’m proud of the way he played. He played well, others played well also.”

Sacred Heart girls 65, Gaston 7

The Lady Cardinals thought they got pushed around at time last year, but they came out aggressive and strong Tuesday night, held Gaston scoreless in the first quarter and cruised to an opening night victory.

Sacred Heart had 13 steals in the first quarter while opening a 17-0 lead. They had 27 steals in the game producing 27 points.

“We’ve been working on that since the summer,” coach Marcus Harrell said. “When most people were getting ready for team camps and stuff, they’re working on skills and putting stuff in; honestly, all we worked on was physicality and defense. If we’re not mentally tough and physical we have no chance anyway. I was really proud of them; they brought it. Defensive wise, it was top notch.”

Ayanna Foster led the Lady Cardinals with 20 points and Jordan Sabree had 16.

Sacred Heart 81, Gaston 35
SACRED HEART (2-0, 1-0) –
Spencer Wigley 1 0-0 2, Khalil Watkins 6 2-3 14, Jack Miller 0 1-2 1, Allen Marshall 6 4-5 16, Caleb Brown 1 1-1 3, Jayden Stone 11 6-7 28, Cade Landers 3 1-3 7, K.D. Harris 1 0-0 2, Aaron Moore 4 0-0 8. Totals 33 15-21 81.
GASTON (0-1, 0-1) – Nick Lewis 1 0-1 2, Garrison Hunt 7 1-2 19, Malik Redmond 0 0-0 0, Joe Moore 0 2-4 2, Ethan Stone 0 2-2 2, Kendall Blackwell 3 0-0 6, Jayden Dupree 0 0-0 0, Kavontae Lindsay 2 0-0 4. Totals 13 5-9 35.
Sacred Heart 24 23 22 12 – 81
Gaston 7 8 8 12 – 35

3-point goals: Gaston 4 (Hunt 4). Total fouls: Sacred Heart 11, Gaston 17. Officials: Morrow, Jolice, Hammond.

Sacred Heart 65, Gaston 7
SACRED HEART (1-0, 1-0) –
Alicia Person 2 5-6 9, Myiah Harris 4 5-6 14, Ayanna Foster 9 2-7 20, Joelle Tillery 0 0-0 0, Jordan Sabree 7 2-7 16, Serena Hardy 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Bell 2 2-4 6. Totals 24 16-30 65.
GASTON (0-1, 0-1) – Kaytlin Thrasher 0 0-0 0, Alex Moon 0 0-0 0, Abriana Dupree 1 0-1 2, Sidney Oliver 0 0-2 0, Haley Morgan 0 0-0 0, Charlotte Whitmore 1 0-0 2, Indya Price 0 0-1 0, Makiyah Underwood 0 0-0 0, Alyssa Gargus 1 0-1 3, Bree Wise 0 0-0 0, Alexis Underwood 0 0-0 0, Tamera Foster 0 0-0 0. Totals 3 0-5 7.
Sacred Heart 17 19 19 10 – 65
Gaston 0 3 2 2 – 7

3-point goals: Sacred Heart 1 (Harris); Gaston 1 (Gargus). Fouled out: Dupree. Total fouls: Sacred Heart 16, Gaston 23. Officials Prince, Joslin, Morrow.

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