With five more games under its belt, the Sedona Red Rock High School boys basketball team took another step forward, going 3-2 at the seventh annual Red Rock Hoops Classic on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 1 and 2.
The Scorpions showed improvement from their season opener against Chino Valley High School on Nov. 28, aided by the additions of junior guard Evan Favorite and sophomore guard Jackson Coughlin. Red Rock head coach Paul Bain knows that there is still much left to unlock.
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“We are making progress, and we have a long way to go,” Bain said. “Everything is gradually getting better. They are getting better. Evan is a huge addition to the team …. In general they are starting to come around and, we have a long, long way to go.”
The tournament opened with a rough start as Red Rock lost 52-35 to Winslow High School. It was tied at 14, but the Bulldogs went on a 12-3 run for a commanding 26-17 lead at halftime.
Winslow pressed the Scorpions throughout the game, creating turnovers and scoring easy buckets. It led to a 40-21 lead little more than five minutes into the second 20-minute half to sentence the game.
The Scorpions went on to win its final two games of pool play on Dec. 1, beating two 4A schools in Coconino High School, 50-36, and Prescott High School 43-37.
Defensive pressure, much like what Winslow had done, was one of the positive takeaways from the opening day. Offensively, the team is figuring things out as well.
Against Prescott, both teams struggled to score in the first half. The Badgers went into halftime with a narrow 16-14 advantage.
Thirty seconds into the second frame, Favorite stole a pass for a transition layup to tie the game. Then senior guard Wyatt Gregson completed an and-1 opportunity and freshman guard Micha Johnson hit a three-pointer to open a 22-16 lead.
Gregson scored four more points on a free throw and triple, but Prescott hung around with a couple steals and transitions scores of its own.
Up by three, Gregson and senior forward Winston Cox then had back-to-back steals and scores to reopen a 38-29 lead, one too great for the Badgers to come back from with little more than two minutes left. Gregson led the team with 18 points.
Nonetheless, there were problematic areas.
“It’s a good win, it’s a 4A team, it’s a good, decent team, and I feel like we’re playing on two out of eight cylinders,” Bain said. “Evan and Winnie starting off with the pressure. Mike [Ortega] played well reading it. I think Wyatt had a good game. It’s hard for me to say that we’re playing really well because we took a ton of bad shots and had a ton of turnovers.
“We have talent, we have potential, and we’re at 25 percent of our potential, which is good, because we won.”
The next day’s quarterfinal matchup was against another 4A Grand Canyon Region team in Bradshaw Mountain High School, defeating the Bears 38-26, which set up a semifinal against Coconino.
That time, though, the result was much different; the Panthers won 48-33, ending Red Rock’s tournament. Bain signaled boxing out and commitment to help defense as the biggest areas of improvement.
The Scorpions return to the floor for a 7 p.m. game on Monday, Dec. 11, at Payson High School.