Warrior boys pull away from Pioneers
Posted: January 9, 2013
Special to The Winchester Star
STEPHENS CITY — Now that the Sherando boys’ basketball team has found an inside presence in senior transfer Demontay Harrison, the Warriors are becoming more of a complete team as they compete for a chance at the Northwestern District title.
On many occasions in Sherando’s game with Millbrook on Tuesday night, Harrison was under the basket to either limit the Pioneers to one shot or clean up a teammate’s miss.
Limited with its own size issues and unable to put a body on Harrison, the Pioneers could only watch Harrison put up a solid double-double of 11 points and 19 rebounds to spark the Warriors to a 75-61 win at Sherando High School.
One year removed from playing basketball in the Austin (Tx.) area, Harrison has come in and definitely showcased what he could add to a team already loaded with guards that could score. Harrison also had a game-high four assists, blocked three shots, and stayed under control (just two fouls) to give Millbrook fits the entire way.
“Every time I come out it’s ‘More confidence, and more confidence,’” Harrison said. “It builds within my team, and practice is where it starts. If we have great practices, we have great games. That’s what we intend to do all season.”
In winning their sixth straight, the Warriors (8-4, 2-0 Northwestern) made sure they had scoring everywhere (four players reached double figures) and also did an outstanding job taking back control of the game in the second half after the Pioneers (7-6, 0-2) went on a 10-2 spurt in the final 1:50 of the second quarter to trail by five at the break.
Held to just three baskets over the final six minutes of the third quarter, Millbrook fell behind by nine with eight minutes to play. In the fourth, the Warriors closed out the game well. The Pioneers got as close as 61-56 after a Cody Brooks' 3-pointer with 4:01 left, but Sherando senior guard Tanner Ruths came back seven seconds later to nail a crucial 3.
As their shots continued to clank away (just 4 of 21 from the field in the fourth quarter), the Pioneers resorted to fouling in an effort to slow the Warriors.
As it turned out, Millbrook put the wrong player at the foul line. Ruths made his last six free throws, 9 of 10 in the fourth, and 12 of 14 overall to help Sherando pull away.
The Warriors made 16 of 20 (80 percent) free throws in the second half and 21 out of 29 (72.4 percent) overall.
“We were knocking down free throws, and that was important,” said Ruths, who scored 17 of his team-high 21 points in the second half. “In a district game, you’ve got to hit free throws. You can’t give [opponents] easy opportunities. They could take the lead right back from you.”
Both teams spent a lot of time getting to the basket and scoring through much of the game. The big difference for Sherando in the second half was it continued to do so and flourish off its opportunities better than did Millbrook.
The Pioneers were still in contention when senior guard Rze Culbreath (game-highs of 33 points and five steals) stepped in for a steal at midcourt and coasted in to bring Millbrook to within 47-45 with 3:24 left in the third quarter. However, a 9-0 run for Sherando as it pushed its lead back to double-digits for the first time since late in the first half.
It started with a slashing drive to the hoop for Ruths, followed by another drive by senior guard Taylor Loudan (19 points, six rebounds, three steals). Harrison then had his third basket off a stickback, was fouled, and hit his free throw. Two more free throws by senior forward Aaron Miller (15 points, six rebounds) had the lead at 11 with 1:57 left.
Being able to come back and push the lead back up helped Sherando regain its confidence and play to its strengths, Ruths felt.
“We pushed the ball a little bit, but mainly we turned it over [got the fast break in motion] like our coach told us to and ran sets and were patient,” Ruths said. “We made some plays with our defense.”
Ruths also agreed that having Harrison on the low block and making plays on both ends of the floor has made Sherando a more well-rounded squad.
“He’s a presence down low and we definitely need that — need someone to rebound and kick it out, get some buckets and putbacks,” Ruths said. “He’s gotten a lot better since day one and he’s definitely one of ‘us.’ We keep a tight group, and he’s definitely one of us.”
Though it never trailed in the game and enjoyed double-digit leads during points of the first period (10 points) and second period (13 points, at 38-25 with 1:54 left after a Miller baseline drive), Sherando coach Garland Williams knew finishing out the game well would be important, with Millbrook’s ability to score quick still in the back of his mind.
Still, the 16th-season coach, who won his 200th game in Sherando’s recent capture of the NBC 29/Daily Progress Tournament, knows his group has been able to come together better for four quarters in recent weeks to gain an advantage over its opponents.
“Millbrook, with Rze, he’s tough to guard and we got in quite a bit of foul trouble tonight with different people guarding him,” Williams said. “But I was very pleased with how our guys hit free throws and were able to rebound well.
“... I feel like we’re doing some things right and that we still need to improve on some things. The confidence level is really up, and that’s good. But we want to make sure it’s a confidence level that through playing good, smart basketball.”
For much of three quarters, the Pioneers ran much of their offense through Culbreath, who had 19 first-half points and had three of the team’s five made baskets in the third. Culbreath would not get another basket after his 3-pointer with 6:21 to play, but he only took two shots down the stretch.
Millbrook did get 13 points from senior guard Cody Brooks before he fouled out in the final minute, and a 37.2 percent night from the field (22 of 59) made it hard for the Pioneers to catch up late.
“They’re better than us,” Millbrook coach Scott Mankins said. “You can sit around and look for excuses and reasons, but they’re better than us.
“In a game like that against a team like that, you can’t afford any mistakes. We got outrebounded by , they didn’t miss free throws, and we missed double-figure free throws [13 of 24]. At the end of the game, things got out of hand. We tried to get in a shooting contest. We had some success getting to the basket, and we start shooting jump shots again. We’ve got to do on the floor what we do in practice.”
The loss was the third straight for the Pioneers, who also got eight points and a team-best 11 rebounds from senior forward T. J. Bruce.