The Sedona Red Rock High School boys basketball team showed a different face in its 56-50 home victory over Payson High School on Dec. 14.
For most of the game.
Normally a team that has preferred to run the floor and create offense with high-volume shooting, the Scorpions, who improved to 4-4 on the season, exhibited more patient and methodical offense for the majority of the game.
But not at first.
Red Rock fell into a 6-0 hole early on before clawing to within 10-9 with less than three minutes left in the first. There was still some control, but the Scorpions’ shots were not falling; they shot four of 12 from the field, including one-of-five from beyond the arc. By the quarter’s end Payson led 16-11.
Midway through the second quarter the deficit grew to 10 points at 26-16, which saw Red Rock hit the panic button and begin to run the floor and shoot with more frequency.
“I’d say when things got a little tighter, when adversity happened, we sort of resorted back to our old self, jacking the shots up instead of running the offense,” Scorpion head coach Kirk Westervelt said.
The Scorpions implemented a full-court defense that began to force Longhorn turnovers. Those turnovers led to points on the other end, and by halftime the deficit was cut to two at 27-25.
“I think our defense was probably one of the biggest things in this win,” junior guard Hayden Bruce said. “We were able to force a lot of turnovers on their guards and we played really good defense overall.”
With momentum on their side, the third quarter saw Red Rock force six more turnovers and use extended offensive possessions to take its first lead at 29-28 off a bucket from junior forward Wyatt Gregson.
“They were pressuring us, and we don’t want to play to their tempo, we want to dictate the tempo ourselves,” Bruce said. “So if they’re trying to force us to speed it up, we want to stay composed. There were still some runouts that we had and we had a few really good fastbreak finishes closing at the rim.”
The Scorpions’ lead grew as the quarter ended, outscoring the Longhorns 8-3, to take a 37-31 lead.
“I think we took some shots we shouldn’t have taken, a couple quick ones,” senior guard Randy Rodriguez said. “I think we had to go the basket, that’s what we didn’t do in the first half, but in the second half we did it and that’s what brought us on top.”
Heading into the game against the larger Payson team, Red Rock knew it had to box out defensively, according to Bruce, and the Longhorns failed to finish the majority of their second chance opportunities.
Efficient free throw shooting in the fourth quarter closed the game out for the Scorpions. They shot nine of 14 from the charity stripe.
The free throws, mixed with longer possessions, saw Red Rock manage its lead, which never grew larger than eight points and was reduced to as little as three.
“I didn’t go into a stall game, but we just passed the ball sort of unselfishly and then we got good looks,” Westervelt said. “I think we had pretty good shot selection.”
Junior forward Winston Cox led with 12 points while Rodriguez, senior forward Dawson Stephenson, and sophomore guard Chase Saczalski poured in nine each for Red Rock. Payson senior forward Trey Glasslock finished with 14.
The Scorpions travel to Glendale Friday, Dec. 16 to play Joy Christian High School.