Injuries hurt Montevallo in regional loss to Sumter County

Montevallo High School junior forward Amber Cardwell banged her head on the court midway through the second quarter of the Bulldogs’ Class 3A semifinal against Sumter County in the Alabama High School Athletic Association playoffs at the Central Regional in Montgomery.

Senior guard Shanise Hudson left the game seconds later in the second quarter after getting hit in the eye.

Without her two best players in the game, Montevallo coach Tena Niven knew a comeback attempt by the Bulldogs was unlikely, if not impossible.

Niven’s worst fears were realized as the Bulldogs fell 62-14 to the Wildcats at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome on the Alabama State University campus.

“We all went brain dead,” Niven said of her team playing without Cardwell and Hudson.

Cardwell led Montevallo (22-9) with nine points on 2-of-12 field goals. Cardwell hit 5-of-8 free throws.

Hudson added three points. Mallory Anderson and Savanna Upton scored one point each. Cardwell and Anderson led the Bulldogs with six rebounds each.

The Bulldogs kept it close in the first quarter, as Cardwell’s jumper with 4:11 remaining in the first quarter tied the game at 7-7.

The field goal turned out to be Montevallo’s final field goal of the game. The Bulldogs hit only seven free throws the rest of the way as Sumter County finished the game with a 55-7 run.

Sumter County extended its lead to 25-9 midway through the second quarter before Cardwell fell hard on the court, which led to her exit.

Hudson left the game seconds later with the Bulldogs trailing by 18 points. Both returned to the court at the start of the fourth quarter, but too much damage had already been done.

“It just snowballed from there,” Niven said. “Once we got down, we never got back into it. We weren’t mentally tough enough.”

The Bulldogs turned the ball over 43 times against Sumter County, which played in the Final Four last season and returned all five starters this year.

Niven said the Wildcats were the best team her team has faced all season.

“We knew we had a huge challenge,” Niven said. “I fully expect them to be in the Final Four again.”

Hudson said the team practiced against the Montevallo boys to prepare for the physical Wildcats.

Hudson said the Bulldogs weren’t ready for the challenge posed by Sumter County.

“It was pretty physical,” Hudson said. “We got beat up out there. We just didn’t execute like we had planned.”