Smith, Rowell combine for 52 points in rout of Sumrall


HATTIESBURG – Sacred Heart coach Brian Butler believes the holiday break can make or break a team. Well, if Friday’s game against the Sumrall Bobcats was any indicator, the Crusaders are trending toward the former.

Sacred Heart used a 14-0 run that started in the second quarter and ended in the third quarter to pull away from Sumrall, then the Crusaders cruised to a 74-45 win.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for photos from the Crusaders’ win from Matt Bush

“We’re starting to peak a little bit and this is the time that you want to do it,” Butler said. “The second half of the season, after the new year, we talk a lot about with our guys the holidays can make or break you. There are some teams that don’t workout fully throughout the holiday break. They don’t utilize it. We’re in here nonstop trying to get better over that holiday break.”

Sacred Heart doesn’t have a normal practice period during school like most teams in the state, so it has to play “catch up,” as Butler calls it, during the break.

To start the game, six different players from both teams scored points before a single player could record more than two points. When Sacred Heart senior Nathan Gerald nailed his first 3-pointer of the game to become the first player with multiple made shots, Sacred Heart had the early 11-4 lead.

Gerald hit another 3, then sophomore Luke Odom sunk a couple of shots to give the Crusaders a 20-14 lead after the first quarter.

Sacred Heart senior Jeremiah Smith made back-to-back shots to open up the second to take a 24-14 lead. His range on defense created multiple Sumrall turnovers, which led to easy buckets for Smith or a teammate he found in transition.

“He’s lanky; very lengthy,” Butler said of Smith. “He does a very good job of anticipating passes. He turns a lot of defections into steals, which gives us buckets. Our best offense is his defense.”

But, the Crusaders went cold after the quick start in the second, Sumrall scored eight of the next 10 game points to cut the Crusaders’ lead to 26-22, as freshman Tyler Williamson, junior Tylus Moore, freshman Cade Mcalpin and senior Tyler Pittman helped contribute to the run.

Sacred Heart, however, finished the half strong with six straight points and eight of the next 10 to close the first half with a 34-24 lead. Smith scored eight of his game-high 28 points in the frame, and senior Paul Rowell Jr. added six points, too. They were the only players to record points for Sacred Heart.

Rowell finished second on the team with 24 points.  

“We try to make people quit,” Butler said. “We try to make it where we put so much pressure on them in a quarter and break each quarter down like that. Once we get to that point where they’re kind of frustrated, that’s when we try to go a little harder.

“(Smith and Rowell) can dominate a lot of ballgames because they’re so athletic. They fly around to the ball, they have a nose for the ball, they have a nose for each other, they know where they’re going to be and they’ve been playing well together for the last five years. It’s impressive to see them play off each other the way they do.”

After ending the second quarter on a 6-0 run, the Crusaders scored the first eight points of the second half to extend the lead to 42-26. Sacred Heart then built a 56-34 lead by the end of the third quarter, as Smith, Rowell and senior Joseph Bishop combined for 22 points in the frame.

Sacred Heart added an 18-point fourth quarter to leave little doubt.

Lady Bobcats 53, Lady Crusaders 25: Neither team started the game particularly well, but Sumrall jumped out to an early 8-2 and the game never got closer than that score.

PHOTO GALLERY: Click for Matt Bush photos from Sumrall’s win over the Lady Crusaders

A string of turnovers and missed shots by Sacred Heart allowed the Lady Bobcats to close the opening frame with a 13-6 lead, then a 7-0 run to start the second quarter push the Lady Bobcats’ lead to 20-6 quickly.

Senior Rachel Green got hot late in the second quarter with eight quick points to pad her team’s advantage to 30-14 by halftime.

Green led Sumrall with 15 points, while freshman Tariana Greenwood added 12 points.

Sumrall held Sacred Heart to just seven third-quarter points and four fourth-quarter points to close the game with ease.

Juniors Taylor Smith and Kaelee Butler, who scored six points each, led Sacred Heart offensively.

Sacred Heart will host Vancleave Saturday at 2:30 and 4 p.m., while Sumrall dips into region play Tuesday with road games to Purvis at 6 and 7:30 p.m.