Shelby advances to Final Four

A long day of lounging and watching basketball led to a slow start for Shelby Academy Thursday, as the Raiders fell behind Open Door, 17-10, after the first quarter. But a strong second quarter sparked the Raiders en route to a 44-42 victory in the final AISA Elite Eight game of the day at Faulkner University.

“We stepped up our defensive intensity and our defensive pressure,” said Shelby head coach Kevin Smith of the second-quarter turn around.

Hitting 7-of-8 free throws in the quarter also helped. Sean Gilbert sent the Raiders into the locker room at the half up 25-24 with a last second lay up.

The second half was a back-and-forth battle between the two, as Open Door held a 36-35 lead entering the final stanza.

Smith credits Open Door (18-7) as one of the most athletic teams Shelby faced this season. Because of that, he hoped to create a mismatch by starting all three big guys in the post – Colton Wingard, Bobby Sexton and Jacob Lumpkin.

“We felt like that would be the difference in the ball game. We knew they would play man-to-man. We didn’t think they could match up with us all the way around,” Smith said.

It was that mismatch that helped give the Raiders a boost in the final seconds, as Sexton gave Shelby a 43-42 lead. With 3.8 seconds remaining, Gilbert hit a free throw to extend the lead to two points and a last ditch effort by Open Door was off the mark.

Gilbert finished with 17 points, followed by 12 from Sexton and nine from Lumpkin.

Shelby (25-7) will meet Cornerstone (26-1) in the AISA Class 1A semifinal Feb. 18 at 1:30 p.m.