The 2013-2014 version of Sacred Heart boys’ basketball made history in many ways. Most wins in a single season (31)… First undefeated season ever (31-0)… First basketball final four appearance in school history… Now a first basketball state title can be added to the list.
Junior Chase Lyles made eight of 10 free throws in the last 2:19 to seal the Grems 61-45 state championship victory over the Iberia Rangers (29-2). The final score was not indicative of how close the game was throughout.
Coach Steve Goodwin commented on the win, “It is a dream come true. We have had some great teams in the past but tonight was one of the gutsiest performances I have ever witnessed, our boys never panicked and played very inspired defense.”
Iberia led 16-14 at the end of the first quarter. Sacred Heart was down 16-6 before closing out the quarter with an 8-0 run in the last 90 seconds.
The score would not likely have been that close if not for the inspired play of senior forward Jimmy Villalobos. Villalobos had 10 first quarter points to go along with six rebounds. He finished the game with 16 points and 14 boards. Villalobos pulled down an impressive total of 24 rebounds in the two final four games combined and averaged over 10 rebounds per game for the season.
The teams traded baskets over the course of the 2nd quarter with Iberia holding a slim one point lead at half, 27-26. The Grems defense was solid in the first half holding Iberia all-state senior Darrien Dickey to eight first half points (Dickey finished with 12 on the night) and forcing nine Ranger turnovers.
“This game was a struggle from the opening tip,” said Goodwin. “Iberia’s energy was great and they are a fantastic team. They were a step quicker earlier in the ball game before we got our feet under us. I liked where we were at half, down by one point, because I was pretty sure we hadn’t played our best basketball yet.”
The second half started slowly for the Gremlin ball club. This observation was highlighted by a two-handed dunk from senior Stephan Cox that made it to the bottom of the net before the basket spit it back out.
Iberia scored the first six points of the quarter before Junior forward Garrett Strange converted at the 4:50 mark for Sacred Heart’s first basket of the half.
Lyles hit a three-pointer from the corner with 2:30 to go in the quarter to pull the Sedalia crew within a basket at 35-33 but the Grems would not score again in the quarter. Iberia took a 38-33 lead into the final frame.
Lyles led the Grems in scoring with 19 on the night. When asked how it felt to have a perfect season he said, “We did not really talk about it much. Honestly, we tried to focus and play one game at a time, especially here at the end.”
Lyles continued, “The hype that our fans bring to the games helps us a lot. Winning the game for them tonight was the one of the best parts of my high school career so far.”
The Rangers came out in the fourth trying to run clock and control tempo. It was a move that might have backfired on them as they went on a scoring drought of over four minutes to open the quarter.
Momentum started to change for good when junior point guard Keyaire Marshall pulled up near the top of the key at the 4:50 mark for a three-point basket. The Grems were back within one at 38-37. Thirty seconds later, they took their first lead since late in the second quarter when Villalobos hit 2 free throws to put the Grems on top 39-38.
Iberia finally scored their first points of the 4th quarter when Dickey hit a layup with 3:49 to go in the game to get the Rangers back within a point at 41-40.
Marshall had a quick answer the next time down the floor as he nailed the second of his two huge 4th quarter 3’s to stretch the Gremlin lead to 44-40.
Over the first six minutes of the fourth quarter Sacred Heart out scored the Rangers 18-5 holding a 51-43 lead win two minutes to play. From there the Grems took over with defense and free throws and the State Championship trophy was on its way to Sedalia.
After the game Goodwin said, “At Sacred Heart we have a great tradition of academics and athletics and this win is one of those memories that will last a lifetime. I am happy to be a part of this for our school and the city of Sedalia.”
When asked how it felt to get this win Stefan Cox summed it up for himself and his teammates, “We all have so many emotions right now. Getting this win seems crazy. Winning state was the ultimate goal and it is something I have dreamed about since I was a kid.”
He added, “We worked hard for all that we achieved this year and we were always together as a team with a common goal. Once we got out all the jitters and nerves, we really had fun and were able to play our game.”
Note: This was Sacred Heart’s 12th Final Four appearance and 7th state title since 2002. Since that time the school has won three state titles in boy’s golf (2010, 2011, 2012), two in volleyball (2007, 2008), one in baseball (2006) and now the 2014 title in boys’ basketball. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia Weekly Observer.