Sedona Red Rock High School boys basketball coach Kirk Westervelt said that his team has been gaining respect from other coaches and teams. Its 57-45 win over visiting Northland Preparatory Academy on Jan. 13 should add to that.
When it counted, the Scorpions [14-6, 3-0] avenged a loss to the Spartans earlier in the season, 67-59 on Dec. 1 in its first round game of the Red Rock Hoops Classic. With the win, the Scorpions, who have won eight of their last nine, ascended to the top rung in the 2A Central Section.
“They’re buying in,” Westervelt said of the team. “If you’re not disciplined at the high school level, you’re not going to go too far at the end of the day, and that’s what matters. They’ve bought in.”
The Scorpions came out of the gate with guns blazing, putting up 21 shots, but sinking only seven. The Spartans had a size advantage inside, which created problems when it came to finishing at the rim.
Ironically enough, Red Rock netted six of its 16 first-quarter points from second chance opportunities. Six others came from forced turnovers. The Scorpions led 16-11 at the end of the quarter.
“[Second-chance points] were very important,” junior forward Wyatt Gregson said. “I think we were just good at boxing out and got the offensive boards and we just made the play.”
The second quarter saw the Scorpions, when not running the floor, slow the pace tremendously on offense. Long possessions for them meant less time on the ball for Northland Prep.
However after the game Gregson admitted that the team did not intend to play a low-scoring game.
Red Rock controlled the game by taking care of the small details, winning the battle on the boards 32 to 20. They also forced twice as many turnovers, 24, as they committed, 12.
The Spartans shot six for 22 from the field in the half, including three of eight from three-point range, compared to just 10 for 34 by the Scorpions.
In most games in any sport, there are moments of adversity, when the opposing team goes on a run that puts the leader back on its heels. That never happened in this game.
Both teams traded baskets throughout, and despite the difference in size, the Scorpions scored all of their points, excluding free throws, from inside the arc. They did not attempt a free throw until the second half.
“I think for the most part we did very good on the backdoor cuts and just taking it to the basket,” junior forward Winston Cox said. “They were a lot bigger than us, but we played smart and held our composure on offense and really took our time to get the best shot we could.”
A buzzer-beating three-pointer by sophomore guard Brody Hibbert gave the Spartans an energy boost.
Consistent play on both sides of the ball combined with an 11 for 14 fourth-quarter effort from the charity stripe saw the Scorpions to an important victory in front a rowdy home crowd.
“Home is where it’s at, you have your fans and you have all of your teammates
and it’s just a really fun crowd.” Cox said.
Nonetheless Westervelt said there were moments of extreme nervousness, especially when Spartan senior guard Colton Hibbert was fouled as he sank a three-pointer, converting the four-point play with 1:28 left to bring Northland Prep to within 10.
Gregson finished with a game-high 18 points and two rebounds while senior forward Dawson Stevenson almost notched a double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds. Colton Hibbert led the Spartans with 14.
Red Rock finished the first round of section play on Tuesday, Jan. 17, at Glendale Preparatory Academy, but results were unavailable at press time. It next plays Friday, January 20, at 7 p.m., at Paradise Honors High School.