E.A. Sports Today

Cardinals fly past Dawgs

Early-season game of the year in county has a little bit of everything, Sacred Heart comes out on top, 59-54

Sacred Heart’s Jayden Stone (22) made a number of crowd-pleasing plays in Saturday night’s game with Anniston. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The basketball game of the year so far in Calhoun County was in the singular spotlight Saturday night and it didn’t disappoint.

There truly was no other game in town and Sacred Heart’s 59-54 win over Anniston left the estimated overflow crowd of 1,200 in Miller Gym wanting more – perhaps in the championship game of the Calhoun County Tournament.

Anniston’s Antonio Kite pulls up for a jumper against Sacred Heart Saturday night. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

While many came to see the anticipated duel between two of the best new players in the county – Sacred Heart junior Jayden Stone and Anniston freshman Antonio Kite – that showdown never really materialized. It was, as it usually does in these situations, the lesser stars who made the biggest impact on the outcome.

Players like Aaron Moore, Jack Miller and Khalil Watkins for Sacred Heart. And William Fairley and Theron Montgomery for Anniston.

It was Watkins’ 3-pointer from the right corner with 44 seconds to play that gave the Cardinals (8-3) the lead for good 55-54. The basket was the result of some superb ball movement by the Cardinals, particularly the way Miller moved the ball along the baseline to find the open man.

“We had shoot-around this morning, worked on that this morning,” Sacred Heart coach Ralph Graves said. “Khalil made the shot, but Jack penetrated, swing, swing, extra pass, bang. Those are plays we have to make consistently and those are the shots that more than likely the basketball gods will bless you if you play the right way all the time.”

The game even had its moment of controversy that had both coaches coming to midcourt with furrowed brows and some fans coming onto the floor.

Stone hit two free throws with 10 seconds left to push the Cardinals lead to 57-54, then he stole the Bulldogs’ inbounds pass from Fairley and dashed to the basket to score an apparent layup with four-tenths of a second left to seal the game.

But somewhere during the scrum on the floor, an official’s whistle blew before Stone’s layup. Anniston coach Torry Brown was trying to rescue Fairley with a time out, but eventually it was called an inadvertent whistle.

“He was going to put 2.5 or whatever on the clock, give them the basket and I kept arguing my point that I took a timeout,” Brown said. “I guess he felt like it was a little too late.

Points were taken off the board, time was put back on the clock to 4.5 seconds, the Bulldogs go their timeout and the Cardinals eventually put the ball in play at midcourt. Stone was fouled with 3.4 seconds left and hit both free throws for the same margin they would have had if things had stayed as they were prior to the confusion.

As for the matchup between Stone and Kite, it never really developed. Stone had 20 points and nine rebounds. Kite finished with 11 points – all in the second half – fouling out with 2:15 to play and Sacred Heart leading 52-51. Both players did some eye-popping things, the type you’d expect from multi-star recruiting prospects.

Of all the plays Stone could be linked to in the game, perhaps his most memorable came on three consecutive trips midway through the second quarter. There was a nice body-twisting move through the lane for a layup, a sidestep dribble to a fade-away 3-pointer from the corner and an open-court steal at midcourt he took in for a slam.

“Stone, he’s our guy,” Graves said. “The team knows that he’s our guy. We’re just happy to have him. There at the end his toughness and resilience you got to see. They were going box-and-one on him and he was still finding ways to get it in the hoop.

“He’s a big-time player. He is as good as advertised. Everybody tells me he’s overrated. I say, yeah, please keep telling him that he’s overrated because all he’s going to do is (continue making plays).”

Kite made some nice moves to the basket, too, and had several neat passes that his teammates couldn’t convert at the basket that took away from his productivity.

“I don’t know if it turned out like that, because I really don’t think either one of them had a really good game, to be honest with you,” Brown said. “I’m not really sure what the numbers were but I think Stone had maybe seven at halftime and he probably came out the second half and had another eight, and Antonio probably didn’t have any at halftime and came out the second half and maybe had eight. With a score 59-54 I don’t think either guy really got off tonight.”

Watkins hit three 3-pointers for nine points. Moore, a transfer from Ohatchee, was a beast around the boards and Miller wasn’t afraid to stick is nose into traffic.

Fairley was hot early for Anniston, hitting three 3-pointers in the first quarter as the Bulldogs grabbed an early lead and finished with 11 points. Montgomery was Anniston’s answer to Moore; he scored around the basket with several put-backs, and finished with 15 points.

Sacred Heart 59, Anniston 54
ANNISTON (5-2) –
Antonio Kite 5 0-0 11, LaDrek Hall 4 0-0 9, Kwame Milton 0 5-8 5, William Fairley 4 0-3 11, Hunter Rouse 1 0-0 3, Theron Montgomery 6 3-8 15. Totals 20 8-19 54.
SACRED HEART (8-3) – Khalil Watkins 3 0-0 9, Jack Miller 3 0-0 8, Caleb Brown 2 0-2 4, Aaron Moore 3 2-2 8, K.D. Harris 1 0-0 3, Jayden Stone 5 9-9 20, Cade Landers 2 4-5 8. Totals 19 15-18 59
Anniston 20 12 13 9 – 54
Sacred Heart 16 31 45 14 – 59

3-point goals: Anniston 6 (Kite, Hall, Fairley 3, Rouse); Sacred Heart 6 (Watkins 3, Miller, Harris, Stone). Technical fouls: Landers. Fouled out: Kite. Total fouls: Anniston 17, Sacred Heart 17. Officials: Dupree, Childs, Warren.

Cade Landers (24) moves in to lend Khalil Watkins defensive support against Anniston’s William Fairley. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

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