It usually takes a team a few games to truly figure themselves out or find a good rhythm offensively at the start of a new season. The Sonoraville Phoenix and senior Wil Walraven bucked that trend on Monday night.
The Phoenix filled up the net in their season opener against Model, and Walraven was front and center in that effort to help his team earn a hard-fought 93-88 victory in the opener of the Sonoraville High Thanksgiving Classic. The point total was a school record for Sonoraville (1-0), and Walraven tied a school record for single-game points. (The program’s all-time leading scorer Justin Zachary was the other Phoenix to accomplish the feat.)
Even with the high output on the offensive end, Model didn’t make it easy on Sonoraville as the visitors had a great night offensively as well, forcing the Phoenix to make crucial plays down the stretch in the fourth quarter to hold on for the victory. Sonoraville led 70-62 going to the fourth, but the Blue Devils (0-1) kept battling and even took a one-point lead at 82-81 on a 3-pointer with just over a minute left in the game to cap off a 10-4 run.
But Sonoraville came up with clutch plays when it needed to, including a couple big offensive rebounds and buckets by Lucas Brooks and three free throws and a score from Walraven to finish the game off and seal the victory on their home court.
“Early on in the season, it’s good to be in situations like that, and it’s even better to come out on the positive side of it,” said Sonoraville coach Brent Mashburn. “It’s hard to simulate that in practice, playing with a little stress and pressure. We did some good things down the stretch in that spot, and that’s encouraging as a coach.”
Walraven was electric all night for the Phoenix in his school-record tying performance. He started the game strong with nine points in the opening quarter but really caught fire in the second, scoring 20 of Sonoraville’s 26 points in the period, which included a trio of 3s, several impressive drives to the bucket and 3-of-4 from the free throw line. He got going again in the third quarter with nine more points, including a pair of 3s, and finished things off with five points in the fourth.
Mashburn said Walraven, who went over the 1,000-point mark as a junior last season, has a natural ability to score in different ways and is impressive to watch.
“He’s a really good player,” said Mashburn. “As a coach, you feel a sense of comfort with the ball in his hands. He really understands the game, and he’s so hard to guard, especially when he’s knocking down shots outside. When he’s got that going and with his ability to put the ball on the floor and go by people, he can have some big nights.”
Sonoraville led 19-16 after the first quarter, and then, with the help of Walraven’s big surge in the second, took a 45-37 lead into the locker room. Model fought back to tie it at 48-48 in the third, but Sonoraville answered with a run to take a 10-point lead 65-55 before going into the fourth with the eight-point advantage.
Along with Walraven’s 43, two other Phoenix reached double figures, led by Brooks’ 17 points. All but two of those 17 came in the second half and he finished the game with a flurry of 10 in the fourth. Chris Rush added 10, and Landon Jones chipped in nine.
Mashburn said he was pleased with the work his team put in over the final few minutes, especially on the boards.
“I had been begging for some toughness from our guys all game,” said Mashburn. “Model is a good team, but I didn’t think we did a very good job on the glass until the final few minutes. We got some huge rebounds at the end to help put it away. Lucas had several of those. But we’ve to be more consistent rebounding throughout the game.”
Model had five players reach double figures in scoring led by Jackson Lively’s 24, including four 3s, and Jabrious Smith’s 22, also with four 3s. The Devils hit 11 3-pointers total to combine with Sonoraville’s 10 for an incredible 21 between the teams in the season opener for both.
Mashburn said that while the win is definitely a great way to start the season off, his team has several areas they need to improve in, specifically on the defensive end.
“You want to play good teams early in the season to see where you are at as a team,” said Mashburn. “We’ve got to do a better job on the glass, and we’ve got to do other simple things like communicating, matching up and keeping guys in front of you on defense. We’ve got to limit them to one shot.
“There’s definitely some things we’ve got to get better at, but there’s no such thing as a bad win.”
Sonoraville is back at home on Tuesday night to take on Cherokee County (Ala.) in the last game of the Sonoraville High Thanksgiving Classic.