SAND ROCK – Basketball teams respect Sand Rock senior guard Garyn Sharpe’s ability to penetrate to the basket so much they sometimes forget he can shoot the ball from outside as well.
The fifth-ranked Westbrook Christian Warriors found that out the hard way on Tuesday night.
Sharpe’s first basket of the game was a 3-pointer to give the Warriors a little preview of what was to come. He finished with seven of the Wildcats’ 14 treys and had a game-high 36 points, along with seven rebounds and three steals to lead No. 10 Sand Rock to a 73-59 victory.
The Wildcat win secured hosting the upcoming Class 2A, Area 12 tournament.
“I think we’re all shooters, and shooters are going to shoot,” Sharpe said. “It was a big game, and we really wanted to host area this year. We had to beat this team to seal the deal. We were ready to play.”
Sharpe wasn’t the only Wildcat who was focused against the Warriors. Jacob St. Clair connected on six treys of his own and had 22 points. Kaden Justice contributed nine points and 11 boards. Cade Ballenger collected 16 assists, four steals, four rebounds and a 3-pointer.
“They didn’t seem to let pressure bother them any,” Sand Rock coach John Blackwell said. “I don’t like to put pressure on players, but I do like to be honest with them. One thing we talked about is this was to host the area tournament. I think every team’s goal is if you want to play in a big ball game, you want to play it at home. It doesn’t matter what level you’re playing at. Our guys played loose, and they shot the ball well.”
Behind a pair of bookend treys by Sharpe in the first quarter, Sand Rock (14-3, 5-0) held a 16-9 advantage. Sharpe opened the second frame with another 3-pointer, and capped the quarter with two more in the final minute to give the Wildcats a 40-20 edge at halftime.
Sandwiched in between Sharpe’s treys was a crucial sequence where Xander Bradley blocked a Warrior shot inside the paint. The Wildcats then pushed the ball back up the floor, where St. Clair drained a deep 3-pointer to put Sand Rock up 15 at 31-16.
“I saw emotion there,” Blackwell said of that second-quarter sequence. “They don’t show that a whole lot, but they showed it during that time. I knew it meant a lot to them. I knew they were feeling pretty good.
“Xander didn’t score a point, but boy, he distracted them a lot. The (6-foot-7 Cade) Phillips kid went up to dunk, and Xander didn’t just block his shot. Xander met him at the rim and took him down with the ball. That was a college block. That’s what you see on college nights. You don’t see that a lot in high school. For Xander to come back from a broken nose, playing this team to have that type of aggression and not have any hesitation, that was fun to watch.”
Sand Rock kept pouring it on in the third quarter, capped again by another Sharpe 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 52-31 lead. The Warriors cut it to 13 points at 61-48 on a Christian Morris 3-pointer with 3:54 remaining, but it was too little too late.
Morris, who sank four treys in the fourth quarter and five overall, led the Warriors with 21 points. Phillips finished with 19 points.
“I think we made their offense kind of difficult to get in synch,” Blackwell said. “We didn’t get a lot of steals, but we got a lot of tips. We distracted a lot of things.
“I thought the guys played well. They played unselfish and it was fun to watch. It’s fun to coach in games like that.”
Sand Rock 87, Westbrook Christian 21
SAND ROCK – The Sand Rock Lady Wildcats went on a 13-0 first-quarter run and never looked back in an 87-21 Class 2A, Area 12 victory over Westbrook Christian on Tuesday night.
Lanie Henderson led the way with 13 points, including three of the Lady Wildcats’ 10 treys in the game. Henderson also added seven rebounds, three steals and a pair of blocked shots.
Katelyn St. Clair contributed 11 points, three boards and two assists for No. 9 Sand Rock (12-7, 4-1). Maci Brown and Arleigh Beard both rang for 10 points. Brown also had three boards and two assists, and Beard had eight rebounds, two assists and a steal.
Makenzi Blackwell sank three treys and had nine points. Zoey Handy also had nine points to go along with six rebounds, a steal, an assist and a block. Kennedy Henderson finished with eight points, eight boards and an assist.
McKayla Bean led Westbrook Christian with 11 points.
Sand Rock led 33-4 at the end of the first quarter and 47-10 at halftime.