Shelby knocks off Cornerstone

He’s still speechless. Shelby Academy point guard Sean Gilbert raced down the sideline Wednesday to lay in the eventual game-winning basket with 14 seconds left, edging Cornerstone, 42-41, in the AISA Class 1A semifinal.

Cornerstone star JV McKinney threw up an off-balanced 3-point attempt with seven seconds remaining, but it was off the mark as the Raiders advanced to the 1A championship Thursday at Huntingdon College against Warrior Academy. Tip-off is 1:30 p.m.

“It feels incredible. We knew we could do it,” Gilbert said. “We just had to come from a fresh start and forget about everything that happened against them earlier in the season.”

Wednesday was the fourth meeting between the two rivals, with Cornerstone (28-2) winning the first and third meetings. Shelby (26-7) is the only team to beat the Chargers this season.

The Raiders jumped on the Chargers early, leading by 11 at halftime, 26-15, after taking advantage of what CCS head coach Tim Bullard called nerves.

“We just came out slow and really weren’t playing like we have all year,” Bullard said.

Shelby came out in a triangle-and-two defense, shutting down all Cornerstone players but McKinney, who had 12 first-half points. He finished with 24 points and five steals.

“We wanted to disrupt JV’s rhythm,” Shelby head coach Kevin Smith said. “We knew he was going to get 20 to 25 points and just tried to not let anybody else get anything going.”

The Chargers regrouped at the half, challenged by Bullard to return to playing their game and run the court. They did, outscoring Shelby15-2 in the next eight minutes with the aid of six Shelby turnovers and 1-of-9 shooting by the Raiders.

“We came out too relaxed after halftime, and they came out with intensity like they wanted it, and they showed it,” Gilbert said. “We got into playing their game.”

While the Chargers started to receive scoring from other parts of the court, including Stephen Bulger’s eight points, Shelby was able to slow the game back to its preferred pace.

“Our key factor all season is to control the tempo of the game, and that’s what we had to do in the fourth quarter,” Gilbert said.

Jacob Lumpkin and Jason McDaniel scored most of the Raiders’ fourth quarter points and finished with 10 and nine, respectively. Gilbert had 19. Bobby Sexton led the game with eight rebounds.

Smith said he expects Thursday’s final to be similar to what the Raiders faced last Thursday in the quarterfinal against Open Door — athletic and fast.

Cornerstone concludes its season with 28 wins, one year after going 4-16.

“It was a great year. Nobody expected us to be here,” Bullard said. “I hate it ended that way for the two seniors but the other nine guys just have to go back to work.”

Live stats for Thursday’s championship can be tracked online at http://fs.huntingdon.edu/livestats/xlive.htm.