Sumter County wins championship

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 8, 2004

BIRMINGHAM — If the sign of a well-coached basketball team comes from key statistics like free-throw percentage and turnovers, then the Sumter County High School Wildcats paid monumental homage to head coach Johnny Patrick.

The Wildcats simply dismantled Montgomery Academy 62-40 on Friday night to pick up Sumter County’s first state championship since 1999. Friday night’s game also happened to be Patrick’s final one as a head coach.

In every statistic of the game, the Wildcats dominated. They turned the ball over only six times. They shot 80 percent from the free-throw line. And maybe even more astounding, they never shot the ball from behind the 3-point line. Not once.

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Then again, when you have cousins Reaynundo Sturdivant and Jamie Sturdivant working the blocks, you really don’t need a corps of long-range bombers.

Reaynundo led the Wildcats with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting from the floor. He grabbed eight rebounds and dished out five assists, walking away from Birmingham as the MVP of Class 3A.

Jamie was no slouch himself. He finished the night with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.

And if you’re to talk about Patrick’s deft hand at coaching, maybe most impressive between the Sturdivant powers was their clean play for the Wildcats. Reaynundo finished the game with zero personal fouls. Jamie picked up just two.

Though adrenaline may have carried Montgomery Academy through the first eight minutes of Friday’s championship game (Sumter enjoyed just a 14-12 lead after the first quarter), experience and coaching obviously took over at the beginning of the second quarter. Sumter outscored the Eagles 14-4 heading into the halftime break, and they never had to worry with the Eagle much afterward.

As the second half wore on, and as Montgomery Academy could mount no real charge, Sumter County played sound basketball — taking care in each possession — and converted at the charity stripe to win the Class 3A boys state championship.