BIRMINGHAM — Diante Wood’s final Sacred Heart team won the school’s fourth straight Class 1A state basketball championship Thursday. The Cardinals did it in his third straight most-valuable-player performance.
Still, it took Quin Riggins’ overtime to get there.
The senior point guard scored nine of the Cardinals’ 10 overtime points — and half of his 18 points for the game — in the extra four minutes, and Sacred Heart pulled away in its third Final Four showdown with Georgiana in as many years 65-56 in Legacy Arena.
With the victory, Sacred Heart (23-10) tied Francis Marion’s state record of four straight state titles and became the first 1A team to do it.
The Cardinals did it in their fifth straight Final Four and the final high school game for Wood, an Alabama signee. There will be no missing ring for the core trio of Wood and 2017 seniors D.J. Heath and Kevion Nolan, now playing collegiately at Canisius and Samford, respectively.
“We finished off great,” Wood said. “This year, since we lost D.J. and Kevion, everybody was like, ‘Oh, you all aren’t that good this year. You’re not going to be able to do it without them two.’
“That just brings fuel to our fire.”
Wood put lots of logs on that fire in his final state tournament. He scored a game-high 22 points Thursday to follow his 25-point, 19-rebound performance against Cornerstone in Monday’s semifinals.
The MVP of the 2016 and 2017 state tourneys had a chance to punctuate it with a game-winning shot Thursday, but his turnaround jumper from 15 feet at the regulation buzzer caromed off the rim.
“Man, it would’ve been so great if he’d hit that shot at the end,” Sacred Heart coach Ralpheal Graves said. “You talk about fadeaway over the shoulder. That’s legendary, but hey, that’s the way it goes.
“For our program, what Diante meant is, kids like this don’t come through that often.”
As was always the case, however, Wood didn’t do it alone. Murdock Simmons joined Wood and Riggins on the all-tournament game with an 11-point, 10-rebound performance.
As it was when Kavarri Ross came off the bench to score 28 points and save Sacred Heart’s overtime victory over Sunshine in 2015, the Cardinals needed somebody else to step up Thursday. Riggins took advantage of his mismatch with Georgiana point guard Dalvin Dix.
“Quin had the matchup, and, man, he took the game over there,” Graves said. “From a point guard perspective, me being a point guard myself (in high school), I couldn’t do what he did.
“You’ve got to know when to take your chances. You can’t just come down and say, ‘Let me set the offense up.’ Anybody can do that.”
Riggins put Sacred Heart up for good 57-55 on a driving layup at 3:04. After Wood and Georgiana’s Christian Williams traded free throws, Riggins drove again to make it 60-56 at 1:37.
Riggins made the first of two free throws at 1:11, two free throws at 0:40 and a free throw each at 0:29 and 0:18.
“He came down there, and you talk about getting in the paint at will and finishing,” Graves said. “That separated the game, so you can’t say enough about his poise, his mental toughness.”
Riggins scored 13 points in the second half and overtime.
“Coming into the overtime period and to start the second half, we saw that I had a mismatch,” he said. “We really wanted to take over that, and I just wasn’t ready to lose.”
It looked like Sacred Heart could lose on this night.
Georgiana (30-4), which lost to Sacred Heart in the 2016 final and last year’s semifinals, got 17 points from JaMichael Stallworth, 16 from Martavius Payton and 13 from Williams and pushed the Cardinals to the limit.
After Sacred Heart got off to an 11-2 start, Georgiana outscored the Cardinals 29-19 to lead 31-30 at halftime.
Sacred Heart switched to a 3-2 zone in the third quarter, and the Panthers missed 11 of their first 13 shots. Still, a Stallworth jumper and free throw brought them within 43-41 headed into an epic fourth quarter.
Sacred Heart broke out to a 50-44 lead on a Simmons jumper at 5:44, but Dix rimmed in a trey to make it 50-49 at 1:28.
Two long Stallworth 3-pointers, including the tying 30-footer at 0:18, proved crucial to forcing overtime.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” Georgiana coach Kirk Norris said. “They played their hearts out. They kept fighting and never backed down. I love them.”