Title on line for Cordova

Blue Devils take on Madison Academy for 4A championship

By W. BRIAN HALE, Eagle Sports Writer
Posted 3/1/18

The time has finally come for the Cordova Blue Devils.

After a grueling season of tough competition and a postseason campaign that included three-straight tightly-contested games, the Blue Devils are in position to claim the program’s first AHSAA state championship in basketball.

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Title on line for Cordova

Blue Devils take on Madison Academy for 4A championship

Posted

The time has finally come for the Cordova Blue Devils.

After a grueling season of tough competition and a postseason campaign that included three-straight tightly-contested games, the Blue Devils are in position to claim the program’s first AHSAA state championship in basketball.

Standing in Cordova’s way are the Madison Academy Mustangs, who had previously won the Class 3A title in the past two seasons and are making their first challenge for the Class 4A championship.

The teams battle at 5:45 p.m. today in the Class 4A state final. The game will be broadcast on WJLX 101.5 F.M.

While each member of the Blue Devils’ squad is eager to bring the championship trophy back to Cordova, it’s the defining goal for the senior trio of Demetrius Kirk, Jayce Willingham and Isaac Chatman — all of whom have made the Final Four in the last three seasons.

Kirk’s first experience at the tournament came as a sophomore, when the Blue Devils advanced to the championship game, but fell to a senior-laden Westminster Christian program.

“I remember being on the floor for the first time — the sights, sounds, the atmosphere. I was so nervous. This week, everything’s coming naturally, almost like playing at home,” Kirk said. “We’ve been through a lot this season and had to fight to get here. It hasn’t come easy, but if you want to earn a title, it’s not supposed to. We’re determined to come out and play our best game — to finish what we started.”

Beginning at the Northwest Region Tournament, the Blue Devils have needed big plays in the final minute of regulation to secure a victory.

In the region semifinal against Haleyville, Kam Cooper played the hero, taking a charge with less than 10 seconds left in the game, giving Cordova a 49-45 win. In the region final against Deshler, Chatman came up with the play of the game, blocking a opponent’s shot, picking up the loose ball and racing down court for the game-clinching dunk for a 56-48 victory.

On Tuesday in the state semifinal against Andalusia, it was Willingham’s turn for a clutch moment. Willingham made a critical block and was fouled after grabbing the rebound. He connected on his two free throws, part of an 8 for 9 day from the line, which proved the difference in the 46-39 victory.

“In the game against Andalusia, we talked to our younger guys about how they performed with Isaac fouling out in the fourth period. They’ve worked hard this year. They came through for us in the semifinal and it showed they want a championship as much as the seniors do,” Willingham said. “We all want to be part of a title team and leave a legacy. The only way to do that is bringing the trophy home.”

For Chatman, the path and desire go deeper. In his eighth grade year as a member of the Parrish Tornadoes, he played in the Class 1A championship game — thus making today’s title matchup his third overall. Through numerous regular and postseason championships, individual accolades and Player of the Year nominations, the state championship is the only way to end his high school career — which win or lose comes to its conclusion today.

“From stepping onto the court as a varsity player in my seventh grade year to his point, it’s been an amazing experience. There’s very few players in the state, for that matter the country, that has blessed to be able to go to the state tournament four times in their career and to a championship game three times,” Chatman said. “I want to win a title for everyone who has supported me over the years — teammates, family, friends, our school and coach Heath Burns and our assistant coaches. We’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”