E.A. Sports Today

Stopped short

Sacred Heart’s Final Four streak ended by hungry senior-laden undefeated LaFayette; Hall, Landers make all-tournament team
By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today
JACKSONVILLE – Ralph Graves is going to the Final Four next week and do a lot of the same things he’s always done because he’s a basketball guy and wants to absorb as much as he can about the game. But for the first time in a long time he won’t be going there preparing to play a game.
Sacred Heart’s run of AHSAA Final Four appearances ended at six Tuesday night when the Cardinals were bounced in the Class 2A Northeast Regional championship game by undefeated top-ranked LaFayette 84-49.
“It’s not about us making to the finals, that’s what y’all make it about,” Graves said in the Cardinals’ post-game press conference. “It’s about us playing the way Sacred Heart wants to play and the way we need to play. … Of course, nobody ever wants to lose, that’s part of it and that’s a pill you always have to swallow and I thought our kids handled it with a great deal of class.
“They beat us today because they beat us. They are a senior-led group who returned every player in the starting five and the first six from last year. Here we are trying our best and our kids are fighting their hearts trying to play to the best of their ability and tonight they were a little bit quicker than us to the ball and the could be a lot of the hunger that they have.”
This was the fourth straight year LaFayette has gotten to the Northeast Regional final and the first time it’s gotten through to Birmingham; Scared Heart took it out last year. The Bulldogs (33-0) were led Tuesday night by tournament MVP Corey Boston’s 20 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Wallace led all scorers with 25 and Matavais Burton had 18.
Taishun Hall and Jack Miller had 11 apiece for Sacred Heart (16-15). Hall and Cade Landers made the all-tournament team.
“What a win, what a way for our young me who’ve been to Jacksonville four straight times, never being able to get out of here alive,” LaFayette coach Obadiah Threadill said. ”What a showing. Not only did we come and win, but we won in that type of fashion … It couldn’t go to a more deserving group.”

The Cardinals’ Final Four run started with a semifinal loss in 2014 to St. Jude’s when the group that would become a state dynasty was just starting out and Threadgill was just getting to know Graves personally. They won the next four Class 1A state titles in a row with that group, success that moved them into a larger classification despite being one of the smallest schools in the state, and last year lost in the 2A championship game with the last shot in their hands.
This year, however, they’re reduced to Final Four spectators, but the Cardinals’ head coach won’t change his championship week routine.
“I will do everything the same that I would do as if we were playing, we just won’t be playing,” Graves said. “What I’m going to do is I’m going to see what it takes to win it.”
“It’ll probably be a little weird because every single year of my high school career I’ve gone to Birmingham,” Miller said. “It’s going to be an adjustment but like Coach Ralph said you’ve got to keep moving.”
Threadgill knew “this wasn’t the same (Sacred Heart) team from last year,” and with a veteran group “playing with pretty much grown men against eighth- and ninth-graders.” But because he knew Graves, he knew to expect a battle from a team without a big man (Aaron Moore has been out since the area championship game) and an 11-man roster with five junior-high players.
“Tonight we just had a little bit too much for them,” Threadgill said. “But he’ll be back. He always is.”

The Cardinals started cold Tuesday, going 3-for-16 from the field in the first quarter, and fell behind 20-7. They battled back in what Graves thought was one of their better second quarters of the season and made it a 10-point game at halftime.
They got within seven early in the third quarter, but missed a 3-pointer that would’ve cut it to four and missed a layup trying to answer a Burton basket and the Bulldogs proceeded to pull away.
“We’re still Sacred Heart now,” said Graves, who was forced to coach most of the game from a seated position due to a late first-quarter technical foul. “Do you really think you’re going to play us and really think we’re going to lay down? That’s not going to happen. I’m not going to lay down and I’m not going to let you lay down. You keep playing to the whistle and the game is over with and whatever happens happens.
“You don’t want any blemish on your character to show any weakness that you’re not tough, that’s you’re a quitter, and our kids didn’t display that.It’s all heart here and we’ll just pick our chins up. I told them in the locker room you have to take these lessons and put them into life. The biggest lesson we take out of this is we’ve got to get back to work, we’ve got to get back to The Lab.”
Championship game
LaFayette 84, Sacred Heart 49
SACRED HEART (16-15) –
Taishun Hall 5-13 0-0 11, Jack Miller 5-11 0-0 11, Allen Marshall 3-7 1-1 7, Javen Croft 0-1 0-0 0, Cade Landers 3-12 3-6 9, Jarek Burroughs 0-4 3-5 3, Devin Barksdale 0-2 0-0 0, Anthony Bothwell 1-2 0-0 2, Delroy Francis 3-5 0-0 6, Mykhel Simmons 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-57 7-12 49.
LAFAYETTE (33-0) – Matavais Burton 7-15 3-4 18, Corey Boston 6-9 8-12 20, Jordan Walker 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Wallace 10-17 3-4 25, Antavius Woody 3-6 3-4 9, Markvious Moore 3-5 1-4 7, Keandre Peterson 0-1 0-0 0, Jedarius Crim 1-2 0-0 3, Lafrerick McCurdy 0-1 0-0 0, Jamaraiae Daniel 0-1 0-0 0, Tyquarian Daniel 0-1 0-0 0, DiaQuan Giddens 1-1 0-0 2, Jamatthew Reese 0-0 0-0 . Totals 31-59 18-29 84.
Sacred Heart       7   18  18   6  –  49
LaFayette             20  15  26  23 – 84
3-point goals: Sacred Heart 2-20 (Hill 1-5, Miller 1-4, Marshall 0-2, Landers 0-1, Burroughs 0-3, Barksdale 0-2, Bothwell 0-1, Francis 0-2); LaFayette 4-16 (Burton 1-3, Wallace 2-6, Crim 1-2, Boston 0-2, Peterson 0-1, J. Daniel 0-1, T. Daniel 0-1). Rebounds: Sacred Heart 26 (Francis 7); LaFayette 45 (Boston 10, Wallace 8, Burton 7). Technical fouls: Landers, Graves. Total Fouls: Sacred Heart 19, LaFayette 16. Officials: Jones, Simpson, Isbell 

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