STATE CHAMPS Raiders run table at ASIA Final Four

The Shelby Academy Raiders swept through the competition behind the scoring and rebounding of Justin Klepin and Josh Kervin last weekend to claim the Alabama Independent School Association (AISA) Class 1A state basketball title.

The Raiders finished the season with a 20-3 mark.

Kervin and Klepin combined for 34 points in a 67-54 Raider victory of Sparta Academy in the finals and Huntingdon College last Saturday.

&uot;We were behind 31-25 at the half and we came out in the third period and outscored Sparta 23-8,&uot; SA head coach James Knowles said. &uot;I wish I could say it was something I said to them in the locker room,&uot; Knowles laughed, &uot;but it was just another example of the teams determination and great effort throughout the year.&uot;

Ryan Elm, the only other Raider in double figures, chipped in 10 points in the win.

Knowles pointed to the play of his guards as a key to the victory after his inside players got in early foul trouble.

&uot;Justin (Klepin) and Jamie (Griffin) both got their fourth foul in the third period and had to play a little safer,&uot; Knowles said. &uot;Then Josh (Kervin) and Ryan (Elm) took over the game. They handled the ball well. Andrew (Elm) got a lot of rebounds and started the fast break. Josh and Ryan got a lot of layups and easy baskets down the stretch and it rattled them (Sparta). That was the difference in the game.&uot;

Knowles also praised his lone senior, Griffin.

&uot;Jamie is our only senior and his play and leadership on and off the court was key to our success all season,&uot; Knowles said. &uot;And this win was a total team effort. That’s the way we won as many games as we did. You could look through the stats and a different player was the leading scorer every night. The team always managed to pull together. Whoever had the hot hand got the ball. Everyone on the court played unselfish all year.&uot;

The Raiders made it to the final game with a close 54-51 win over Marion Military Institute in the opening round.

Klepin led Shelby with a double-double, recording 18 points and 12 rebounds and Ryan Elm was the only other Raider in double figures with 11 points. Kervin and Griffin scored nine and eight points, respectively.

Knowles said he was extremely proud of his young team.

&uot;You couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to coach,&uot; Knowles said. &uot;This is a great group of kids who have earned everything they have won this season.&uot;

The Raiders lone losses came to Bessemer, Coosa Valley and Jefferson Christian. Bessemer made it to the Final Four in Class 3A before losing to eventual state champion Fort Dale. Coosa Valley made it to the Regionals before bowing out in the first round. Jefferson Christian lost to Coosa Valley in the area tournament