E.A. Sports Today

Bears shoot down Sacred Heart

Plainview hits 11 3-pointers, all of its free throws to take down Cardinals in a battle of reigning state champions

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

After the first few minutes Friday night, Plainview coach Robi Coker had to be thinking all the rims in Calhoun County have to be conspiring against his team.

His normally sharp-shooting Bears were a mere 1-of-24 from 3-point range in a loss at Oxford earlier this and missed their first three from behind the arc Friday against Sacred Heart.

But a team that makes its living by the 3 doesn’t stay let something like that stay with them. Even Sacred Heart coach Ralph Graves knew that wasn’t the norm.

The Bears eventually came around. They hit 11 of their last 27 long-range shots and their last three in a row to pull away from the Cardinals 79-68 in a battle of reigning state champions at the Anniston Aquatic and Fitness Center.

“If I were coach Coker I’d have just taken that (Oxford) film and thrown it away,” Graves said. “They have a system on how they want to play and they’ll continue to play that way. They’re disciplined doing that.”

Funny thing was the Bears had to leave Calhoun County to rediscover it. The game after Oxford they found the rims in Etowah County a lot more hospitable and they hit 13 Thursday at Etowah – 12 in the first half – so they weren’t down for long.

“That’s mainly everything everybody wanted to talk about when we got beat by Oxford, but give them credit, they were ready to play and they dominated in the game,” Coker said. “I just told our guys when we got back on Wednesday we were going to do what we do. We’re going to come here and shoot ball for 30 minutes, we’re going to watch a little film and then we’re going to get on the bus and go to Etowah.

“They’ve got to trust their stroke. Our guys have seen that ball go through that hole thousands of times. These guys just get in the gym and trust their stroke. I tell them don’t worry about your shot, focus on your pass. I forget who said it, but somebody said great shooting teams have great passers, so I told them to work on your passes. You’ve got to trust your stroke, you put hours into that.”

The Bears found the range when it counted. Sacred Heart led 44-43 early in the third quarter when, after missing three straight 3s and a layup, the Bears hit two 3s, three free throws off a 3-point attempt and another 3-pointer around a pair of Khalil Watkins baskets to go up 55-48.

The Cardinals pulled back to within four, 64-60, after hitting two technical foul shots with 6:41 to play and scoring on the ensuing possession. Plainview then then hit back-to-back 3s to touch off a 12-1 run that put the game away.

“We weren’t sound defensively,” Graves said. “They hit some 3s there, but their 3s came off a second-chance shot we didn’t get, a turnover and then we miss like two layups and then they score. You’ve got to take their hat off to them for capitalizing on that.

“Everybody knows they’re going to come and take 3s and make 3s, but you’ve got to understand you don’t come into a game not making layups. I can assure you No. 2 (Tristan Willingham), their point guard, didn’t miss any layups and we missed like five of them there. You’re not going to win that way, so I have to take my hat off to them. Those guys came here and whipped our butts and they’re about to go home with the win.”

It might have taken the reigning 3A champions some time to rediscover their range from long range, but it didn’t impact the Bears from the free throw line. They were 26-of-26 the night before at Etowah and extended the string Friday by going 8-for-8 against the Cardinals. They missed their final free throw attempt in that loss at Oxford.

With scouts from Alabama, Auburn and Tulane in the building, the Bears did a good job of limiting Sacred Heart junior guard Jayden Stone. They held Stone, the top junior prospect in the state, to 19 points and to only two in the middle two quarters.

Meanwhile, Watkins and Jack Miller picked up the slack. Watkins had 18 points and Miller had 10 – all at seemingly critical times to keep the Cardinals close.

Caden Millican led Plainview with 21 points and Koby Tinker and Willingham had 16 apiece. The three of them combined for eight of the Bears’ 11 3-pointers.

“We’ve had a tough time finishing in the fourth quarter,” Coker said. “We just challenged our guys to relax and make the easy play. I thought we were trying too hard and I thought our guys did a great job of just taking what the defense gave us and doing what they were capable of doing.”

Plainview 79, Sacred Heart 68
PLAINVIEW (10-1) –
Tristan Willingham 6 1-1 16, Cole Millican 2 0-0 5, Dane Haymon 2 0-0 4, Andrew McLaughlin 0 0-0 0, Haden White 4 0-0 10, Caden Millican 8 1-1 21, Jonah Williams 0 0-0 0, Jathan Underwood 3 1-1 7, Koby Tinker 5 5-5 16, Grant Sanders 0 0-0 0. Totals 30 8-8 79.
SACRED HEART (8-4) – Khalil Watkins 7 3-3 18, Jack Miller 4 0-0 10, Caleb Brown 3 1-2 7, Aaron Moore 1 2-2 4, KD Harris 1 1-3 3, Jayden Stone 7 3-4 19, Cade Landers 3 1-1 7. Totals 26 11-15 68.
Plainview 20 20 22 17 – 79
Sacred Heart 20 21 15 12 – 68

3-point goals: Plainview 11 (Willingham 3, Co. Millican, White 2, Ca. Millican 4, Tinker); Sacred Heart 5 (Watkins, Miller 2, Stone 2). Technical fouls: Tinker. Fouled out: Miller. Total fouls: Plainview 11, Sacred Heart 12.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login