Photo: Glencoe’s Aiden Cornutt (3) drives for a layup as Sardis’ Luke Martin, Kason Moore and Eli Mortoan (pictured, from left) look on during Sardis’ 71-51 victory in the Etowah County Schools Basketball Tournament boys championship game on Saturday, Jan. 20 at Hokes Bluff. (Courtesy of Alex Chaney)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
An eight-point swing in the space of 20 seconds late in the third quarter was the turning point in this season’s Etowah County Schools Basketball Tournament boys championship game on Saturday, Jan. 20 at Hokes Bluff.
Sardis’ double-digit lead over Glencoe early in the second half evaporated when Garrett Morgan’s three-point basket put the Yellow Jackets right back in the game at 51-46 with just over two minutes remaining in the third period.
But Glencoe (12-6) committed a shooting foul on the next possession, and the Yellow Jackets paid the price when Eli Morton knocked down both free throw attempts. The Lions quickly forced a turnover, which Luke Martin converted into a three-point basket with 30 seconds left in the period. Martin wasn’t finished, as the junior guard came up with a steal on the ensuing Glencoe possession and drained another three-pointer that provided Sardis with a 59-46 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
The defending champions never got within single digits the rest of the way and managed only five points during the fourth quarter. In the meantime, the Lions (21-2) netted 12 points, seven from Carson Gillilan, on the way to a 71-51 victory and Sardis’ second county title in the past three years.
“We lost our heads there at the end of the first half, and Glencoe has some guys that can really shoot the ball,” said Sardis head coach Van Owens. “We just had to settle down after halftime and come back out and play our game. Things got a little haywire [in the third quarter] and we had to call a time-out and make some adjustments. We were able to put together that run near the end [of the third quarter] that gave us a little bit of a cushion.”
The Lions had four players score in double figures, led by Martin 16, Gillilan with 14, Morton with 13 and Tournament MVP Kason Moore with 11. Conner Lowery chipped in eight points.
Morgan paced Glencoe with 23 points, including four three-point baskets. Aiden Cornutt and Wade Segrest both scored nine points.
The Lions emerged from a back-and-forth first quarter with a 16-12 lead. A pair of three-pointers from Martin helped Sardis build a 10-point lead in the second frame, but the Yellow Jackets finished off the quarter with a 13-5 stretch (including seven points from Cornutt) that cut the deficit to 33-31 at halftime.
“We got put out in the semifinals last year, and our guys have been looking forward to this game for a long time,” said Owens. “They’ve been working hard towards this, and it was great to see that hard work pay off. This is a special group of seniors, and the ones who‘ve come in to help us and blended right in with them. It’s been a fun year so far, and we’ve got a few more goals that we’re looking to accomplish.”
Joining Moore on the all-tournament team were Martin, Gillilan and Conner Lowery from Sardis; Cornutt, Morgan and Segrest from Glencoe; Anderson Morgan and Landon Davenport from Hokes Bluff; Devon Green and Peyton Morrison from Gaston; Cayden Reason from Southside; and Conner Walker from West End.
Sardis qualified for the finals with a 54-44 win over Gaston on Jan. 19. The Lions trailed 13-11 after one quarter before taking a 29-23 lead at halftime and a 37-31 advantage entering the fourth period. Moore paced Sardis with 19 points, followed by Martin with 13 and Lowery with eight. Morrison led the Bulldogs with 17 points, followed by Green with 12 and Mica Merriman with 10.
Glencoe beat Hokes Bluff, 74-65, on Jan. 19 to reach the finals. Cornutt paced the Yellow Jackets with 30 points, followed by Segrest with 17 and Morgan with 10. Anderson Morgan scored 21 points for the Eagles, followed by Bryce Whitaker with 18 and Noah Johnson with 16. In other tournament action, Gaston defeated Southside, 58-46, and Hokes Bluff dispatched West End, 72-29.