E.A. Sports Today

Comeback Cardinals

Sacred Heart rallies from nine down in the fourth quarter to skewer Anniston, reaches boys finals for sixth straight year

Sacred Heart’s Jayden Stone (22) has contact with Anniston’s Theron Montgomery during their Calhoun County Tournament semifinals game Friday. On the cover, Sacred Heart coach Ralph Graves leaps with joy after the Cardinals rallied to edge the Bulldogs. (Photo by B.J. Franklin)

At Jacksonville State
Friday’s games
Oxford 63, Piedmont 47
Sacred Heart 55, Anniston 52
Saturday’s game
Boys championship, Oxford vs. Sacred Heart, 8 p.m.
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
JACKSONVILLE – To hear Sacred Heart coach Ralph Graves, the Cardinals won twice Friday night in the Calhoun County Tournament.
The first way was the most obvious, beating Anniston 55-52 in front of a raucous, sometimes rowdy, overflow crowd to reach the tournament finals for the sixth year in a row.
The second way was the way they came back, rallying from an 11-point halftime deficit and down nine in the fourth quarter.
The Cardinals now play top-seeded Oxford in the finals for the third year in a row Saturday at 8 p.m. The Yellow Jackets beat Piedmont 63-47.
“We saw it in our kids’ eyes, they wanted it so bad,” Graves said. “We saw at halftime they were down a little bit and we challenged them, do you have another half in you and they were like yeah. They came out and laid it all out on the floor and we came out with a win.
“That was a big win for us. I think the biggest win for us was to see us down and see us fight and fight back. Besides the scoreboard, that’s a win for our team, just to see the resilience from those kids, the perseverance. I’m just proud of them for sticking together and believing and the intensity and enthusiasm.”
Anniston had its way with the Cardinals for three quarters. Between Antonio Kite dribble penetration and Kwame Milton’s 3-pointers, the Bulldogs opened a 23-13 lead and controlled it to halftime. The Cardinals cut their deficit to four midway through the third quarter but Ladreka Hall’s 3-pointer at the buzzer made it a nine-point game.
Milton led Anniston with 19 points. Kite had 14.
Anniston led 49-38 early in the fourth when the Cardinals made their move. They made a defensive switch, started to move the ball better and made some shots and it sparked a 13-0 run that gave them the lead for the first time since early in the game with 3:05 to play.
The Cardinals scored eight points in a minute. With his team down six, Khalil Watkins missed a runner in the lane, but he got a steal at the end other and turned it into a layup. Moments later, Cade Landers hit a 3-pointer to draw them within one, followed immediately by Jayden Stone’s steal and three-point play to give them a 51-49 lead. Another Stone layup put the Cardinals ahead for good inside of two minutes.
Stone had eight points in the 13-0 run, 10 in the fourth quarter and 25 in the game. Watkins had 14 – all in the second half.
“I think our guys did a good job as a team,” Stone said. “At first I was a bit sluggish, wasn’t playing really my brand of basketball at the start because I wasn’t making a lot of shots and usually I feed off my shot making … but I was glad my teammates picked it up. They really fought for me today.”
Stone said there was “never any doubt” the Cardinals would come back and Graves called his assessment “dead on.”
The Cardinals still had some work to do after finally getting the lead. Anniston’s Theron Montgomery made one of two free throws to make it 53-52. The Bulldogs still had several fouls to give and when the Cardinals finally did make it to the line with 14.4 seconds to play Watkins converted a one-and-one to make it 55-52. 
The Bulldogs had one last shot, but William Fairley’s 3-pointer with 3.7 seconds left missed the mark.
After the horn sounded to end it, the Cardinals rushed over the student section to celebrate with their fans.
“We were down at halftime, down and out for a little bit, but we worked all preseason for this and we just had to keep fighting back and we just came back and got the win,” Landers said. “It was probably the most exciting game I’ve ever played in.”
Sacred Heart 55, Anniston 52
Antonio Kite 6 2-4 14, Ladreka Hall 2 0-0 5, Kwame Milton 7 0-0 19, Malcolm Harvey 2 1-2 5, William Fairley 0 0-0 0, Hunter Rouse 0 0-0 0, Theron Montgomery 3 3-6 9. Totals 20 6-15 52.
SACRED HEART – Khalil Watkins 5 3-4 14, Jack Miller 1 0-0 3, Allen Marshall 0 0-0 0, Caleb Brown 1 2-2 4, Aaron Moore 2 0-0 4, Jayden Stone 9 4-4 25, Cade Landers 2 0-0 5. Totals 20 9-10 55.
Anniston              15            17            13            7              –               52
Sacred Heart      10            11            15            19            –               55
3-point goals: Anniston 6 (Hall, Milton 5); Sacred Heart 6 (Watkins, Miller, Stone 3, Landers). Fouled out: Milton. Total fouls: Anniston 14, Sacred Heart 10. Officials: Wood, Bright, Shirey.

To see more pictures from the game visit www.bjfranklin.smugmug.com

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