Sardis comes up short at regionals


Photo: Sardis High’s Luke Martin (left) drives against Guntersville’s Cam Logan during the Lions’ 69-63 loss in the Northeast Regional Tournament Class 5A boys basketball semifinals on Thursday, Feb. 15 at Jacksonville State. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

The Sardis High boys basketball team’s record-setting 2023-24 season came to an abrupt halt on Thursday, Feb. 15 at Jacksonville State.
After a tooth-and-nail first 24 minutes in the Northeast Regional Tournament Class 5A semifinals, the Lions led Guntersville by four points 20 seconds into the fourth quarter.
That turned out to be the highwater mark for Sardis. The Wildcats (19-10) responded to Carson Gillilan’s lay-up at 7:40 with a 16-2 run that broke the game open.
The Lions did not score again until Luke Martin’s jump shot with 4:15 left, at which point Guntersville enjoyed a 12-point advantage.
Martin knocked down consecutive three-pointers to cut the deficit to nine points with 1:15 remaining, but by that point Sardis had to foul in order to regain possession. The Wildcats were in the double bonus free throw situation and made enough foul shots down the stretch to end Sardis’ season at a school-record 28-3.
“We had a couple of spurts, one in the first half and the other in the second when made some turnovers and gave [Guntersville] a few easy baskets,” said Sardis head coach Van Owen. “We were able to overcome it in the first half but not in the second. I thought we did a pretty good job of defending; the buckets that [Guntersville] got were mostly in transition and not the fault of our defense. [Guntersville] is tough t defends because they have so many guys who both shoot it and take it to the basket. But I’m super-proud of the effort of our guys; they fought hard to the very end and had a tremendous season.”
Martin paced the Lions with 29 points, including four three-point baskets. He also had five steals. Eli Morton finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Kason Moore scored eight points.
In a back-and-forth first quarter, Guntersville emerged with a 15-12 lead. Morton scored six points to help the Lions’ cause. But the Wildcats opened the second with a 10-2 run, forcing Ownes to call a timeout and regroup his charges.
Owens’ pep talk had an immediate effect, as Sardis close out the first half with a 12-1 stretch. Martin’s free throw with 39 seconds left tied the game 26-26 before Treyvon Avery’s foul shot 37 seconds later provided Guntersville with a one-point lead at intermission.
The lead changed hands six times during the third quarter, during which the Lions played mostly without Morton at center after he was whistled for his fourth foul.
“It just changed my whole mindset,” said Morton. “I made me be very careful about what I did, and pretty much changed my game completely.”
Martin’s two free throws with 45 seconds left in the frame put Sardis ahead 44-42.
Gillilan’s basket early in the fourth made it 46-42, but the subsequent scoring drought was too much for the Lions to overcome and sent Guntersville onto the finals, where the Wildcats will face Scottsboro on Wednesday, Feb. 21.
Jackson Porch led Guntersville with 24 points, followed by Avery with 13 and Oakey Howell and Dadrien Waller with 11 each.
“What this group has accomplished now sets the standard for Sardis basketball,” said Owens. “This group of seniors (Carson Gillilan, Eli Morton, Kason Moore, Luke Martin, Andrew Felter, Conner Lowery and Jacob Bozarth) do everything how they’re supposed to do it, and that’s why they won 28 games and a county and area championship and made the regionals for the first time in 17 years. They’ve worked hard their entire careers, and that’s why they are as good as they are. All of their accomplishments are due to their discipline and work ethic, and they showed it up to the very end. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”




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