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Card sinks late jumper to send Trojans to 4A Championship Game

Story by Griffin Pritchard | Publisher

Photos by Marvin Gentry | AHSAA

BIRMINGHAM – After falling short a year ago, the St. James Trojans strung together a 25-win season that ultimately came down to the wire. Ava Card (sophomore) pulled the trigger on a short jumper in the final seconds – sinking it – to send the Trojans to the Class 4A Championship game where they will meet 30-1 Deshler Friday at 4. Deshler vanquished Vigor in the other 4A semi, 96-53.  

“At the end of the game I knew we had to score, so I just took it to the basket,” said Card.

Card finished the night with 26 points (10-of-16 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the stripe) and averaged at least 20 on the year. She also rattled off three boards and four steals.

“Ava does what Ava does: she either gets the shot or is going to get fouled trying,” said Katie Barton, coach of the Trojans, discussing her bunch’s 47-45 semifinal win over New Hope. “I didn’t call a timeout (in that situation). We were either going to win the game or go to overtime. You would have thought my entire bench was in the game, even though we only played eight players.”

Barton admits coming into the game that she had no idea what to expect when her Trojans hit the floor against New Hope: “I knew it would be a game of runs. We came out really well in the first half, but New Hope punched back in the second.”

  Saint James (25-6) jumped out to a 26-15 lead over the Indians (26-6) in the first half before New Hope, coached by Craig McGill, settled down and began to chip away at the Trojans’ lead in the second half. Saint James’ lead was eight heading into the final quarter, and while New Hope never took the lead, McKinlee Keel sank a 3-point goal with 22 seconds left to cut the lead to one at 44-43, and six seconds later, Kaylee Lebon tied the game for the Indians with two free throws at 45 all.

That set up Saint James’ final shot. Saint James worked the ball up court with 16 seconds left and Natalie Barton, a seventh grader, passed the ball into Card with six ticks remaining to set up the winning shot.

Saint James’ K.K. Hall had eight points, Barton had seven plus a team-high six rebounds and three assists. Jada Bates led New Hope with 14 points, Lebon had eight points, 13 rebounds and three assists, and Kaylee Yarbrough had 12 points.

Barton described the Trojans season as a “stormy” one as they kept running into PCA (3A championship finalist) and Trinity (the bunch that put the “and one” in PCA’s 35-1 record). Both squads worked to expose weaknesses in St. James game. The team the Trojans face in Friday’s finale – Deshler – will look to exploit any remaining weaknesses as they set an AHSAA Class 4A scoring record with 96 points. The Tigers outscored Vigor 30-12 in the opening stanza and never looked back, shooting 40-of-81 from floor and 12-of-29 from outside the arch.

Emma Kate Tittle scored 30 to lead the Tigers. Kate Brooke Clemmons and Chloe Siegel (12 each) chipped in to help. Siegel topped 2,000 career points in the win, grabbing seven boards, six assists and three steals in the process.

(Josh Bean contributed to this article)

Founder/Publisher of Central Alabama Scoreboard. Former sportsguy, managing editor, currently working for the City of Tallassee as a Public Information Specialist and grant writer.

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