The 4A Conference Lee Williams Volunteers knocked another city school out of the boys winners side of the Pepsi Holiday tournament after taking down the 2A Conference Northland Prep Spartans, 65-42, Friday night at Sinagua Middle School.
Lee Williams, which beat Basis Flagstaff in wire-to-wire fashion in the first round, never trailed against the Spartans and just physically outplayed the smaller school.
Despite the size disadvantage in both the school and players, Spartans head coach TJ Harris liked what he saw out of his squad.
“I think we played well and I told them that when I was in high school, I loved playing in these tournaments because you get to play those schools you never get to play like Lee Williams and those big schools,” Harris said.
The Spartans kept the game close after the opening quarter, trailing just 22-15, but allowed the Volunteers to do damage from the arc as they hit four 3-pointers to open the game. The Volunteers’ full-court press began to cause some issues for the Spartans in the second quarter, however.
Lee Williams used a 13-0 run early in the second to push the Spartans’ deficit to 35-17, hitting three shots from the arc during the run. The Spartans quickly answered with six straight points to cut it back a 12-point Lee Williams lead, but the Volunteers put the scoring run on ice with an eight-point swing at the end of the first half.
Volunteers guard Cody Ferrin hit a reverse layup, then after two Spartan turnovers Volunteers guard Aaron Santos found an easy layup on a fast break. Santos then stole a Spartans pass, finishing at the rim at the buzzer to send his team into the break with its largest lead up 43-26 over Northland Prep.
“The end score was 23 points, but to end the half they go on a 4-0 run to turn it into a 14-point game where we missed two layups. So it was a big 8-point swing that really could have changed things,” Harris said on the late first-half push.
Down big and facing an uphill battle, the Spartans’ depth was tested in the second half. Starting guard Fred Gooding picked up his fourth foul in the third, forcing the Spartans to their reserves. Lee Williams started to slow the pace down with the lead, which the Spartans took advantage of as they kept the scoring close in the third quarter, scoring 11 points to the Volunteers' 14 in the quarter.
Volunteer guard A.J. Herrera put the exclamation point after taking a Spartan pass coast-to-coast for a breakaway dunk. The Volunteers followed up the big play with a Drew Cardiff and-1 layup to push his team’s lead to 63-38 late in the fourth quarter.
Although the Spartans lost, Harris pointed to the short runs his team was able to go on to show they can compete against larger schools like Lee Williams. That gives him confidence in how his team will handle schools in the 2A Conference going forward.
“(The positives are) just that," Harris said. "I’m really excited to watch the film and see where our defensive breakdowns were. They are a great team to play man-to-man against because they just run their stuff and they are very physical. So they made us work.”
“I think we can play with a team like Lee Williams,” he added.
Lee Williams advances to play in the Pepsi semifinals against Phoenix Sunrise Mountain – who beat the Flagstaff Eagles 76-58 Friday night -- today at 12:30 p.m. in Sinagua Middle School’s main gym. Northland Prep will play Flagstaff at 11 a.m. today at Northland Prep.