Sonoraville has won a lot of games this season thanks to their explosive offense putting up big numbers on the scoreboard. But on Friday, they showed they could win a game even when the shots aren’t falling at the high clip they’ve gotten used to over the past couple months. They did it with their defense.
After fighting back into the lead late in the game, the Phoenix had their backs against the wall with Bremen getting four straight offensive possessions trailing by three points or less in the final minute of the game. And all four times, the Phoenix defense stepped up to the challenge to get a stop and a defensive rebound to hold on for a 60-57 subregion victory on their home court.
Sonoraville (19-3, 5-1 subregion) trailed by one at 57-56 with just more than a minute to play, but Wil Walraven found teammate Chris Rush with a pass deep in the lane, and Rush flushed it through the basket with a two-hand jam to give his team the lead.
Bremen then had three straight chances to take the lead as they trailed by one, but Sonoraville’s defense dug in and turned the Blue Devils away each time. After Lucas Brooks made two free throws with 11.5 seconds to play to push the lead to three, the Phoenix defense once again forced Bremen to come up empty on a last-second shot to seal the win.
“Credit to (Bremen), we weren’t at our best tonight,” said Sonoraville coach Brent Mashburn. “To have to get four consecutive stops at the end, it was good to see us be able to do that. It’s getting closer to that time of year where one bad night can end the whole season. So to pull it out there at the end with some clutch plays and find a way to win, it was really big.”
“It’s really important to be able to win in different ways. Most teams have a certain way they like to play, and we certainly do to. But to be able to find success in different ways like we did tonight, it makes us that much tougher going forward. We made enough plays on offense tonight, but our defense came through for us in crunch time.”
The game was tight throughout as Bremen (8-13, 1-4 subregion) led 16-15 after the first quarter and then 29-28 at the half. After Sonoraville grabbed a 36-35 lead midway through the third quarter, Bremen answered right back with a run that put them ahead 46-40 late in the quarter before five quick points from Walraven to send the game to the fourth with the Devils up 46-45.
The fourth quarter featured seven lead changes as the teams battled back and forth. A bucket by Bremen’s Charlie Crafton put his team up 57-56 with a little more than a minute left before Rush’s dunk on the next possession set up the thrilling finish.
Walraven led the Phoenix with 21 points, 15 of which coming in the second half and nine in the fourth quarter. Rush added 14 points, and Trend Daniel scored nine. Brooks added six capped off by his clutch free throws in the closing seconds.
“Will is a kid that knows how to make plays, whether it’s scoring or setting up his teammates to score,” said Mashburn. “The one he dropped off to Chris for the go-ahead bucket was one of the biggest plays of the night. Teams show him so much attention, and he’s gotten to the point where he makes whatever play is needed regardless if it’s him scoring the ball or someone else. We took the lead and never gave it back on that last one.”
Crafton scored a game-high 23 for Bremen with nine coming in the fourth quarter. Jason Houston added 11, Dalton Smith scored eight and Austin Stanford contributed seven.
The win keeps Sonoraville in contention for the top spot in the subregion, and they have a huge game at home on Tuesday against Adairsville, which is a de facto subregion title game. Even with that one just ahead of them, Mashburn said his team is focusing on what they have to do one day at a time.
“That one is as big as this one was,” said Mashburn. “They are all important at this point of the season. We’ve put ourselves in position to be in the race for the top spot so we’ve got to come out and play well every single game. We’ll take care of what we can, stack it up at the end and see where we are.”
Sonoraville hosts LFO on Monday at 6:30 p.m. and Adairsville on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.