The five seed outshot No. 4 Sacred Heart in the quarterfinals of the Calhoun County Basketball Tournament on Wednesday night, winning the game 73-48 despite a tight first half.
“I just thought that we kind of set the tone defensively early,” Wildcats coach Jonathan Miller said. “Our guys did a good job, followed the game plan and played well on the defensive end. I thought we played pretty good.”
The defensive play in the game kept both teams in single digits after the first eight minutes with Saks holding an 8-6 lead. But it was what the Wildcats did in the second quarter that made the biggest impact in the game.
After Darion Coleman hit a three-point shot with 4:42 left before the half, Saks (14-4) scored 10 of the next 15 points, taking a 28-21 lead into the locker room.
“Early on and really throughout the game, we played good defense but we couldn’t get any shots to fall,” Miller said. “I kind of figured once we got a couple of shots to fall we’d be OK. Sometimes up here crazy things can happen in this gym. The depth perception is different and we got a couple to fall in and that made us a little more confident.”
In the second half, the Wildcats were able to extend their lead, mainly behind dominating the glass.
“That was part of what we wanted to do,” Miller said. “We wanted to attack the glass and try to get some putbacks and use that to our advantage. (Daniel Heard) did a good job, as he’s done all year, on the offensive glass.”
While Saks was able to score shots off the boards, Sacred Heart (17-5) struggled beyond the arc, not making its first three until the 4:21 mark in the fourth quarter.
“Saks took us out of what we wanted to do,” Cardinals coach Ralpheal Graves said. “They just played physical. When you’re playing with a bunch of younger guys and a team starts playing physical at the varsity level, that happens, and I understand that.”
However, when Quen Williams made the first three, Sacred Heart pressed to make a comeback as Williams made two more in the next two possessions. Although the effort was there, the Cardinals’ efforts were too little, too late as they still trailed by 15.
“Our boys kind of have the game backwards. Whenever a three falls, then they want to play. They didn’t fall until later in the game and by then we were down by 20.”
The win for Saks advances the Wildcats to face top-seeded Oxford, which defeated ninth-seeded Jacksonville by 40 points earlier in the day, on Friday at 5:30.
“They’ve got a very veteran team and they’ve been playing with the same guys the last several years and they’re a good 6A school,” Miller said of Oxford. “Obviously we’re the underdog, but we’re going to come out and give it our best shot.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.