Sardis breaks 17-year regional drought

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Photo: Sardis High senior Carson Gillilan finishes cutting down the net following the Lions’ 79-65 victory over Springville in the Class 5A substate playoffs on Feb. 10 in Sardis City. (Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter)

By Shannon J. Allen/Sand Mountain Reporter

The Sardis varsity boys basketball team cut down the net Feb. 6 to commemorate winning the Class 5A, Area 13 Tournament.
On Saturday, Feb. 10, the Lions cut down the net again in Sardis Gymnasium, this time to celebrate punching their ticket to the Northeast Regional Tournament for the first time since 2007.
Kason Moore scored 27 points, followed by Luke Martin with 17, Eli Morton with 16 and Carson Gillilan with 12 to power Sardis to a 79-65 victory over Springville in the subregional playoffs.
Morton celebrated his 18th birthday by helping the Lions reach Jacksonville State and the Sweet 16 for the first time as a Class 5A program. Sardis was in Class 3A when it lost to Madison Academy in the Northeast Regional 17 years ago.
The Lions (28-2) face Guntersville in the regional semifinals on Thursday, Feb. 15 at 10:30 a.m. at Pete Mathews Coliseum. The winner moves into the Elite Eight and meets the Scottsboro-Leeds winner in the regional finals on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 10:45 a.m.
“Springville came out firing, making everything there in the beginning and kind of got us on our heels a little bit,” said Sardis head coach Van Owens. “The first half was neck and neck the whole way. I think we turned the ball over about three times in a row when we came out for second half. There’s always nerves when you get to a level you’re not used to being at. This was a new thing for us to be hosting a subregional game, so had to stay settled and play our game. Springville is well-coached, and I knew they had a lot of good players. They’ve had a great season, and those coaches do a wonderful job with those guys.”
Moore, a senior guard, took over the Springville game in the second half. He poured in 22 points and proved to be unstoppable for the Tiger defense.
“Like I said at county, we’re on to bigger things,” Moore said. “We’re going to keep pushing forward.”
A back-and-forth first quarter saw the Lions ease in front 15-12 when Gillilan hit a tough shot in the paint against two defenders. Morton drained a 3-pointer from the left wing, making it 18-12 with 23.3 seconds left.
Following a Springville free throw, Morton drew a foul as he sank a put-back at the buzzer. He completed the three-point play to give Sardis a 21-13 cushion.
The Tigers opened the second period with a 7-2 run over the first four minutes. Springville narrowed Sardis’ lead to 25-24 on Brayden Henderson’s two free throws with 2:04 on the clock.
The Lions hit 5-of-6 free throws and received a layup from Moore in the final 1:44, which allowed them to hang onto the lead at 32-28 at intermission.
Springville pounced on Sardis to start the second half, as the Tigers created offense from turnovers and steals. Springville grabbed a 38-37 lead by converting a steal into a layup with 5:37 remaining in third quarter.
Sardis head coach Van Owens called a timeout at the 5:35 mark, and the Lions responded by regaining the momentum for the rest of the night.
“We got it back together and the guys just performed from then on out like we’re used to performing,” said Owens. “[We] settled into the game a little bit.”
“Before [Owens] called that timeout, we weren’t playing our game,” Moore said. “We got caught up in all the loudness of the crowd [and] let it get to us. We needed to calm down and
play our game.”
Gillilan scored in the paint and hit a layup, and Moore sank a fast break layup to give Sardis a 43-38 lead. The Tigers trimmed it to 45-44 with 2:01 left, but Sardis ended the quarter on a 10-2 run.
Moore swished a 3-pointer from the left wing and drained a fadeaway jumper in the paint, and Martin converted a three-point play with six-tenths of a seconds left, making it 55-46 at the quarter break.
Martin’s trey at the 6:13 mark of the fourth quarter extended Sardis’ advantage to 58-46. The Tigers answered with a 3-point basket, but Moore’s 3-pointer restored the Lion lead to double digits at 61-49 with 5:32 left.
Another 3-pointer by Moore, following an offensive rebound by Martin, pushed it to 65-49 with 4:33 remaining. Springville rallied, getting six points from Brodie Frederick over a 1:30 span to pull within 69-57.
Sardis responded with an 8-2 spurt, including four points by Morton, to put the game out of reach. Moore’s free throw made it 77-59 with 53.4 seconds to go.
Owens said the Lions also received some “great minutes” from their bench.
“Jacob Bozarth and Andrew Felter came in and played great,” Owens said. “Lucas Montgomery did a great job on [Springville’s] best player. It’s great to have guys you can put in off the bench that go in and give you that kind of hustle, that kind of effort and are willing to play defense when they go in. Those guys are critical to what we do.”
Owens pointed out that the Sardis fans and student section created an electric atmosphere, giving the Lions a homecourt advantage that proved unbeatable.
“Our student section was great tonight. They were all in the white out and had the rally towels. Those guys have been to most all of our home games, and they’ve traveled well, too. Our community does a great job of supporting all of our programs here. That’s a usual thing, but especially when you get to these playoffs and get to certain levels, they really amp it up.”

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