The Cardinals trailed by four in the opening minutes but used transition baskets to speed up the game and defeat Faith Christian 72-51 in a Class 1A, Area 10 boys basketball opener.
“We still have to improve on the defensive end,” Sacred Heart coach Ralphael Graves said. “The effort was there, but to us it’s just another game. We just have to get better as time goes on.”
Faith Christian (1-5) jumped out to a 6-2 lead after back-to-back baskets by Jonathan Twilley before D.J. Heath and Diante Wood led Sacred Heart to 12 straight points, nearly all coming on breakaway layups.
With the tempo high, the Cardinals (5-4) did what they do best, extending the lead to 40-23 at halftime and later having a 63-34 lead at the end of the third quarter.
“The key is you have to stop them from scoring and then we can play the way we want to,” Graves said. “You have to work the defensive end first then we’ll move to offense. Once we started executing that then things started happening for us.”
The Sacred Heart defense did play better in the second half, Graves said, as it held Faith just 11 points in the third quarter. However, the Cardinals’ lead continued to grow behind the offensive production of Heath, who finished with 26 points, Wood, who had 23, and Kevion Nolan, who scored 18.
“They did well, they did what they needed to do for the team,” Graves said. “There are no individual parts to them. They did what they needed to do for the team. I’m proud of the effort by them and by everyone else also.”
Faith rallied in the fourth period, outscoring Sacred Heart by eight. The comeback was led by Josiah McDaniel, who scored 10 of his 17 points in the second half. Twilley finished with 10 points.
Faith Christian girls 42, Sacred Heart 23: Faith coach Bradley Dawson said he challenged the Lions at halftime to stop Sacred Heart from scoring in the lane.
With Faith leading 21-9 during the speech, the Lions came out in the second half and continued to play well, especially in the fourth quarter.
Sacred Heart’s Jarece Tillery scored four of her eight points to cut the Faith lead less than 15, but the Lions point guard Madison Stephens took over.
Stephens led the game with 14 points, scoring in the second half on several plays designed to get her the ball.
“We started running a few plays for Madison,” Dawson said. “We have quite a few in our arsenal so we stuck to a couple that worked.”
Sydney Nordan scored 12 points for Faith, while Madelyn Adams and Jasmyne Groce each had seven. Sacred Heart was led by Zainab Sannsi, who scored 10 points.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star