The firsts keep coming for Sacred Heart girls basketball, and each first steps toward another.
Playing in their first area final at home — and sharing Miller Gym with the four-time-defending state champions boys team in a boy-girl, area-final doubleheader — the Cardinals got 24 points from most valuable player Ayanna Foster and beat Ohatchee 49-28 to win 2A, Area 11 on Saturday.
Sacred Heart’s boys followed with a 61-42 victory over Westbrook Christian, which sets up another first … both Sacred Heart teams playing sub-regional games at home.
The girls, 23-4 and ranked second in 2A in the final Alabama Sports Writers Association poll of the regular season, will host Lafayette on Monday at 7 p.m. At stake is Sacred Heart’s first Northeast Regional berth in girls basketball.
The boys, 18-10 and ranked seventh, will play host to Ranburne on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
“It’s all firsts in Sacred Heart history,” second-year girls coach Marcus Harrell said. “It’s the first time we had the number-one seed coming into the tournament, first area championship and first time to get to host a sub-regional game.
“That’s a big deal. We’re trying to start something and get something going here.”
Ohatchee’s girls (13-14) came away with their first sub-regional appearance in three years and will play at Ranburne on Monday.
“We’re happy and excited, because the girls have had two rough years, as far as years go,” Ohatchee coach Bryant Ginn said. “We’re so young. We’re proud to be in.
“The girls are upset right now, but I told them, we’ve just got stuff to fix.”
Led by all-tournament pick Tori Vice’s 10 points, Ohatchee kept it close for a half, drawing within 18-14 on Jorda Crook’s layup just before halftime.
Sacred Heart’s Alisia Pearson sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer to make it 21-14, and it set the tone for the second half. The Cardinals scored the first eight points of the third quarter to take a double-digit lead for good.
They made good on Harrell’s challenge.
“I challenged them tonight,” Harrell said. “I said, ‘Somebody’s got to eventually do it. Why not us?’
“Why don’t we be the team that gets that first banner for Sacred Heart girls basketball in the gym?”
Joining Foster and Vice on the all-tourney team were Sacred Heart’s Myiah Harris and Jordan Sabree and Ohatchee’s Regan Snow.
“This means a lot,” Foster said. “We’re making history, but we’re having fun while doing it.”
Sacred Heart boys 61, Westbrook Christian 42: Tourney most valuable player Khalil Watkins scored nine points to build on his 30-point showing against Ohatchee in the first round, and Sacred Heart went on a 12-2 run to start the third quarter and gain separation.
It marked the second year in a row for Watkins to get area-tourney MVP. He hit the winning 3-pointer in last year’s area final against Spring Garden.
“He had 30 and 12 the last game, and he controlled the show this game,” Sacred Heart coach Ralpheal Graves said. “He played well.”
Jayden Stone paced Sacred Heart with 18 points Saturday, and Caleb Brown added 15. Jonah Morris led Westbrook Christian with 10 points.
Stone and Brown joined Watkins on the all-tournament team, along with Ohatchee’s Grayson Alward.
Sacred Heart and Westbrook were tied 12-12 through one quarter, and the Cardinals led 30-25 at the half. They opened the second half with a 12-2 run to take control.
“Playing defense in the first half, we had a hot whistle,” Graves said. “We were being undisciplined and fouling some. That got us out of our defense and not the way we want to play.
“The second half, the foul count starts over, and we got on a run without fouling.”