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The Northland Prep Academy Spartans downed the Greyhills Academy Knights, 50-34, to vault into the winners bracket of the 2018 Pepsi Holiday tournament at Sinagua Middle School on Thursday.

The Spartans constantly stuck to a full-court press on the Knights that led to many turnovers and fast breaks the other way.

The Spartans were up 17-16 at the half, but the third quarter proved to be the turning point. After a 9-2 run to start the quarter, the Spartans turned it on to match their first-half points total in the third, which saw them with a 34-21 lead with one period to left play.

Spartans head coach TJ Harris was pleased with his team’s Day One performance.

“They stuck to the plan,” Harris said. “They didn’t get flustered, they stuck to our tracks, stuck to our rotations, and stuck to our offensive principles, and it turned into a win for us.”

Much of the offensive principles that Harris talked about were in the hands of senior Jack Berger. The 6-foot-5 center was a handful for the Knights, who did not have a big man of their own to match up with Berger down low.

Berger finished with 14 points and three blocks.

The third quarter had a little bit of everything -- scoring, steals and blocks. Senior Brody Hibbert put up nine points in the frame for the Spartans to go with two assists. The Spartans full-court press started to tighten its grip on the backcourt of the Knights, forcing several turnovers.

“Everything we’ve been practicing was working there,” Harris said. “We’ve been working on getting the traps where we want them, taking away the middle. Offensively, we were just being patient, taking care of the ball -- which was something they consistently did all game.”

Hibbert finished the game with 16 points.

The Spartans will be back in action tomorrow at 5:30 p.m.

In the meantime, the Spartans will have to fulfill their other duties as student-athletes.

“They’ve got school,” Harris said. “They’ve got to take care of things in the classroom first.”

The next challenge for the Spartans will be against the Lee Williams Volunteers. The Volunteers won their opening game 58-15 against Basis Flagstaff.

“They’re a bigger, stronger team (compared to Greyhills),” Harris said of Lee Williams. “But we’re going to do a lot of the same.”

GIRLS

After seeing four combined points scored in the first quarter and an abrupt break a little more than a minute before halftime, the Northland Prep girls basketball team opened the Pepsi Holiday Tournament with a 46-12 loss to Arizona Lutheran Thursday afternoon.

The Spartans and Coyotes were tied 2-2 after the opening eight minutes of the game, with Liney Meis the lone Northland Prep player to get on the board. Arizona Lutheran opened the second half by taking a quick lead, with Northland Prep putting up just another four points before the fire alarm sounded in the gym.

A bomb threat to Sinagua Middle School forced the building to be evacuated with 1:21 left in the second quarter, sending both teams into the drizzle and cold along with the entire student body and all other teams waiting for their games.

“It’s weird for both teams. The girls are energetic already, so they stay pretty loose,” said Spartans head coach TJ Harris. “It’s just trying to get them mentally back and prepared like ‘We still need to play a basketball game,’ so that's the difficult part.”

With everyone allowed back in the building roughly 40 minutes later, the officials decided to treat the break as halftime and add the 1:21 on to the third quarter. The Spartans scored just six more points in the remaining 17:21, falling behind 38-12 at the end of the extended third quarter.

“We started to turn the basketball over a little bit and give them some easier opportunities,” Harris said. “We just have to continue to take advantage of the layup opportunities we get and limit theirs. Those live ball turnovers are the most difficult ones.”

Coming off of road victories against North Pointe Prep (33-17) and Joseph City (35-29) the previous two days, Northland Prep was led by Abby Vest with six points in the loss. The 2-1 regular season record has the Spartans above .500 for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

“We just have to continue working on taking care of the ball and finishing our layups,” Harris said. “I think to start the game, both teams started out pretty slow. We were playing good defense, they were playing good defense. But they started to make shots and we didn't."

-- Cody Bashore

Daily Sun Associate Editor

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