Wildcats win area crown

Sometimes it’s a double-edged sword being the top-ranked team in an elimination tournament.

Sure, being at the top of the bracket means you play the weakest teams, but, at the same time, everyone wants to knock you off the throne.

The Shelby County Wildcats got everyone’s best shot, but they were able to withstand and win the Class 5A, Area 8 title Monday with an 84-78 overtime win at home against John Carroll.

“I loved it,” said Wildcat Head Coach Charles Dickinson. “That is just the way we play. We’re going to do two or three bad things, and then we’ll turn around and do two or three good things. We had to make plays to tie it up, and in overtime, we made plays to win the game.”

The Cavs gave SCHS all it could handle in the first half, leading the whole way. After finding a way to stop the hot hand of Andra Sledge, who had 18 first half points, the Wildcats found themselves only trailing by six at intermission.

With a Jordan Simon 3-point shot, Shelby County tied the game midway through the third quarter.

The show of emotion from Tyler Harris after hitting a 3-point shot from the corner was only a glimpse of adrenaline that hit the Wildcats in the fourth quarter. The crowd obliged, too.

“That was a big boost for me and my team,” Harris said. “It’s great being a senior and being able to win the championship.”

With 25 ticks remaining in regulation, Kevin McNorton sank one of two free throws to send the game into overtime.

“This is awesome because no one expected us to be here,” McNorton said. “We just kept pounding away and won the game like we have done all year by working hard in the late stages of the game.”

When overtime hit, Shelby County never tapped the brakes. Simon, who finished with a team-high 22 points, tallied eight crucial points in overtime play going 6-for-8 from the free throw stripe.

“I think it was the most intense game of the year,” Simon said. “We knew we were going to make mistakes, but we just kept playing hard, and we were able to get a win.”

The Wildcat trio of Simon, McNorton and Harris combined for 62 of the Wildcat’s points, but Dickinson knows it’s the “team” concept that has gotten his boys 21 wins on the season.

“To have 21 wins with this team, it means everything,” Dickinson said. “It is so true that you don’t have to have great players to have a great team. We have five guys that are on the court working together at all times.”

Sledge led the way for the Cavs with a game-high 28 points.

SCHS will host Selma Friday night. Darion Sutton joined McNorton and Harris on the All Tournament Team.