Phoenix make cru­cial de­fen­sive stops to hold off Devils

Calhoun Times - - SPORTS WEDNESDAY - By Alex Far­rer

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 Mash- burn. “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 game­high 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 had 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.”

TIM GODBEE / For the Cal­houn Times

Sono­rav­ille’s Wil Wal­raven (10) goes up for a shot over Bre­men’s Dal­ton Smith dur­ing Fri­day’s game.

TIM GODBEE / For the Cal­houn Times

Sono­rav­ille’s Lu­cas Brooks drives to the bas­ket dur­ing the first half on Fri­day.

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