ROME — Basketball is a four-quarter game, but often times one quarter can tilt the outcome one way or the other. On Wednesday night, that was the third quarter for Sonoraville as they dominated the period to lead the way to an impressive 60-43 victory over Darlington in the Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament quarterfinals.
The Phoenix (9-0) were tied at 23-23 at the half in the contest at Georgia Highlands, but after Darlington (3-2) hit a free throw to start the third, Sonoraville reeled off 12 straight points for a game-changing run, which included eight points from Wil Walraven. The senior standout scored a game-high 28 points in the victory and hit four 3s to give him 54 points and eight 3s through the first two games of the tournament.
Sonoraville coach Brent Mashburn said he felt good at the half being tied, and he was proud of the way his team came out of the locker room to take control of the game highlighted by Walraven’s impressive performance.
“I told them at the half that we were in a pretty good spot being tied after missing some easy ones and turning the ball over a few times in the first half,” said Mashburn. “We thought if we pressured (Darlington) in the second half and sped them up, it would work to our advantage and it did. We made them work hard for everything they got on offense in the second half. We really made them work, and then we were able to make some shots.
“Wil is a kid that can score in bunches and in a lot of different ways. He was big in helping push the lead out some by getting those quick buckets in a row in the third, and that really made it tough on them to come back after we got a good lead. He is really good and doing that and changing the momentum of a game.”
The Phoenix went out to outscore Darlington 20-8 in the third quarter to take a 43-31 lead to the final period. They then closed things out with a 17-12 advantage in the fourth quarter, including going 8-of-9 from the free throw line. Sonoraville hit six 3s in the second half total.
Walraven wasn’t the only Phoenix scorer with a solid night as Landon Jones came off the bench to score 13 points, including a trio of 3s. Trent Daniel added 11 points. Mashburn said that has been the recipe all year with different guys coming through on different nights.
“That’s been us all year,” said Mashburn. “It’s been somebody different to go with Wil almost every night. We have a lot of guys that have stepped up, and that’s what it takes to be a good team. I feel like I’ve got so many guys on this roster that can do a lot of different things on the court.”
Darlington jumped out to a 15-11 lead after the first quarter before Sonoraville fought back to tie things at the half. The Tigers were led by Sam Tackeberry and JD Hull, who each scored 12 points. Tackeberry’s all came on his four made 3s. Griffin Brewster added nine.
Not only did the victory keep Sonoraville unbeaten in the early season, it pushed them into the Tournament semifinals where they face Rome on Thursday night at Berry College at 7 p.m.
“This is exciting,” said Mashburn. “This is been a new atmosphere and scene for us, but it’s been really good so far. I expect as we move on later in the tournament, it’s just going to keep getting better. Those big moments and big atmospheres are why you coach and why you play, and I think it will really benefit us down the road.”
In earlier RN-T Christmas Tournament action:
Sonoraville boys 55, Woodland 52
ROME — Sonoraville got off to a great start on Friday, but they had to fight tooth and nail from that point on against a gritty Woodland team in order to survive and advance at the Rome News-Tribune Christmas Tournament at Georgia Highlands.
The Phoenix jumped out to an 18-6 lead after one quarter in their first-ever appearance in the tradition-rich holiday tournament, but Woodland had no plans of going away easily as they came back and went basket for basked over the final three quarters.
A clutch sequence, however, on the offensive and defense ends for Sonoraville allowed them to pull out a 55-52 victory and advance to the tournament’s quarterfinals.
Trailing 52-51 with 2:16 to play, Sonoraville (8-0) clamped down on the defensive end to hold the Wildcats scoreless from that point on and thanks to a pair of free throws by Wil Walraven with 29.2 seconds left and a breakaway dunk by Chris Rush with 6.8 seconds left, the Phoenix walked away with a dramatic win.
“It’s huge for us just to be in a game like that where you have to make big plays at the end,” said Sonoraville coach Brent Mashburn. “You aren’t going to have your best every night, and credit to Woodland for making things really difficult on us on both ends. We definitely didn’t play our best tonight, but to be able to get the stops we needed to at the end and find a way to win is big for us.
“We had struggled to get stops all night, but to get those two stops in the final minute when we needed them the most shows how much our guys wanted this game. Wil stepped up and made a couple big free throws, and Chris got out in front and made a big play off a pass from Trent (Daniel).”
Walraven carried the Sonoraville offense for much of the night as he scored a game-high 26, including four 3-pointers and six points in the final five minutes as the lead traded hands multiple times. Sonoraville led 27-22 at the half as Woodland fought back from the 12-point deficit following the first quarter. Each team grabbed the momentum at different times in the third quarter before the Phoenix held a slim 40-37 lead going to the final period.
The fourth quarter featured six lead changes and one tie with neither team leading at any point by more than four points.
“At the end of the day in a tournament like this, you just have to survive and advance,” said Mashburn. “It doesn’t matter what it looks like, you just have to find a way to win. But like I said, it was good for us to be in a tight game. We were able to execute and make plays in crucial spots. We’ve got to be better in the next one, but we’ll take the win tonight. There’s no such thing as a bad win.”
Rush added nine points, and Lucas Brooks scored eight. Daniel and Patrick Moore each contributed five points.
Three Woodland players reached double figures with Justice Carter leading the way with 12. Dawson Wilkins and Hunter Johnson each scored 10. Carter made two big free throws with 2:16 left in the fourth to give his team the 52-51 leads before Sonoraville’s late heroics.
The win advanced the Phoenix to the quarterfinals on Wednesday night against Darlington.