Sherando boys beat Handley in battle of Northwestern unbeatens, 75-60
Posted: January 16, 2013
STEPHENS CITY — District titles and playoff games may not be won in the middle of January, but statements can certainly be made.
Having dropped all three of their games with Handley last year — two of which came on their home court, including the Northwestern District Tournament final — the Sherando boys’ basketball team had a little extra motivation heading into Tuesday night’s contest.
Add in a seven-game winning streak and a matchup between the only remaining undefeated teams in the district and the stakes were plenty high.
But where the first half depicted a clash of evenly matched teams, the second half showed that the district championship may go through Stephens City this year.
Utilizing an up-tempo attack to counter the Judges’ decided size advantage inside, the Warriors raced out of the gates to start the second half and never looked back on their way to a 75-60 victory in front of a raucous home crowd.
“Going 0-3 against them [last year] really hurt and they’ve got a lot of guys back from that team, so we wanted to establish a point that, ‘Hey, we’re here too, we’re not leaving,’” said Warrior senior Aaron Miller.
That point was made in the third quarter when Sherando (10-4, 4-0 Northwestern) turned a two-point halftime deficit into a 53-43 advantage, thanks largely to its speed.
Trailing 33-29 after a jumper by Handley senior Jacob Rudolph, the Warriors ripped off nine straight points.
Senior Tanner Ruths scored off a cut along the baseline, Miller got a layup in transition, senior Demontay Harrison knocked down two free throws and classmate Taylor Loudan converted a three-point play on a fast break to put Sherando up for good.
“One thing we feel we can do against any team this year [is run],” said Sherando coach Garland Williams. “We feel like we’ve got some guys that can run up and down and we feel like if we can block out and get the rebounds, let’s go. That has to be part of what we try to do.”
The speed of the Warrior guards gave Handley (11-3, 2-1) fits in the second half, but it was the presence of Harrison that seemed to energize the team and the crowd the most.
Forced to sit the entire first half due to missing practice on Monday with an illness, the 6-foot-5 senior transfer entered the game at the 5:35 mark of the third quarter and immediately made an impact.
Harrison blocked consecutive shots by Handley’s Buster Wigley (10 points) in the paint, knocked down two free throws and hit a turnaround bank shot all while defending the Judges’ biggest weapon in 6-foot-8 Cameron Jackson.
The Handley junior finished a block short of a triple-double (17 points, 20 rebounds and nine blocks) but he and the rest of his teammates simply were unable to keep up with the Warriors.
A pair of 3-pointers by Ruths (14 points) and a jumper by Miller (14 points) stretched the Sherando lead to 46-37 and five straight points by junior Isaiah Williams (12 points) to close the quarter pushed the lead to 10.
Things didn’t get any better in the fourth quarter for the Judges as Miller found senior John Harrell and Harrison for easy finishes under the basket and Williams and Loudan got layups in transition to put the game away.
“We saw that some teams may have blocked out Cameron and [6-foot-5] Darion [Robinson], but then they wanted to slow the ball up and run their offense,” Miller said. “With big guys like that you have to outrun them and beat them with your feet.”
Sherando tried to do that in the first half, jumping out to a 10-4 lead on baskets by Harrell (nine points), Ruths and Loudan, but Handley managed to stay close thanks to the play of junior guard Tre Brown (eight points) and Rudolph (10 points).
Playing with a mask on after having surgery last week for a broken nose, Rudolph buried two deep 3-pointers and Brown managed to penetrate the Warriors’ defense for a pair of layups, including one right before the buzzer to give the Judges a 29-27 lead heading into halftime.
Any momentum they thought they had gained though went right out the window, though, once the second half started.
“We just did not play basketball and when you’re doing what you want to do and not listening, it’s hard to make adjustments and play better,” said Handley coach Tommy Dixon, whose team saw its three-game win streak snapped with the loss. “If you rebound the ball like you’re supposed to they can’t run. If you attack and get the ball down inside and score, they can’t run. And we did neither one of those things.
“We’re hoping it is [a wake-up call], we’re hoping it is. What we have to do is rededicate ourselves to doing a better job in every phase of the game.”
For the game Handley shot just 31 percent (21 for 68) from the field while Sherando shot 42 percent (28 for 67).
The Warriors have now won eight in a row and sit in sole possession of first place after the first round of district play.
“Right now, at this point in the season we just want to keep it rolling, we want to keep it going until the district tournament starts,” Miller said. “We don’t want to slow down.”
— Contact Kevin Trudgeon at email@example.comFollow on Twitter @WinStarSports1