After the first quarter, the No. 11 Sedona Red Rock High School boys basketball team was treading water with No. 2 Paradise Honors High School, trailing 10-7.
In the second, though, Panthers imposed suffocating defensive pressure to open a 46-14 halftime lead, ultimately sinking the Scorpions 74-40 in the teams’ Central Region debut on Tuesday, Jan. 2, in Surprise.
BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS
“They’re a good team, there’s no doubt. They played well, and we played their game and not ours,” Scorpions head coach Paul Bain said. “And when we play their game, we’re going to lose every time. We’ve got to play our game and we did not.”
Paradise Honors senior forward Jared Perry, standing at 6 feet 8 inches, finished a second chance opportunity to open the scoring. Red Rock senior forward Michael Ortega responded with a three-pointer, which ended up becoming the only lead the visitors would hold.
After made baskets, the Panthers brought pressure right into the Scorpions’ faces, forcing long passes across the court for steals and buckets. That pressure did not come as a surprise, according to Bain.
It had been 17 days since the team’s last game, a 57-39 win against Joy Christian School on Dec. 15. The team was not able to practice at full strength during the holiday break, either.
Red Rock rode the storm through the first eight minutes despite turning the ball over eight times. Paradise Honors, which received an influx of talent after the recent closing of nearby Arizona Charter Academy’s high school portion, broke off a 24-3 run across most of the second frame to open a 34-10 lead.
The run was capped off with back-to-back threes for senior guard JJ Ramirez and a transition dunk by junior forward Josh Hawkins.
“Turnovers. We just turned the ball over and played right into their pressure defense. Their offense was our turnovers. We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Bain said.
Meanwhile, the Scorpions struggled to muster any clean looks on their offensive end. When they did get set in a halfcourt look, the Panthers then stalked and sprung on cross passes. They pressured ball-handlers, trapped at times, and also closed out on shooters and helped on cuts through the lane.
“It was definitely difficult, we couldn’t even get into our usual motion,” Red Rock senior forward Wyatt Gregson said. “They really pushed us and had us get caught in their game and not ours, and that really messed up our momentum.”
In the second half, Paradise Honors began to focus on more of its own halfcourt offense, finding Perry, an Adams State commit, inside and open shooters. Defensively, though, they continued hurrying Red Rock, which did score 13 points in the third quarter.
Gregson finished with a team-high 16 points, 13 in the second half, and the Panthers had three double-digit scorers and two others with eight.
Up next, the Scorpions will look to regroup when it plays at 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 5, at Chino Valley High School. They beat the Cougars on a bucket by senior guard Hayden Bruce with 21 seconds remaining in the season opener on Nov. 28. The focus heading into it is simple.
“Just to be ourselves really,” Gregson said. “We weren’t our regular selves today, and we’ve just got to pick up where we left off.”
At 2:45 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6, Red Rock will travel to Talking Stick Resort Arena for a game against Conference 4A Prescott High School.
Stat of the game
Trailing just 10-7 after the first quarter, Red Rock gave up 36 points in the second while again scoring seven.
Quote of the game
“That was the most athletic team we’ve played by far. Their quickness, they’re quicker than we are, so their quickness out on the perimeter had us not be able to get into our offense the way that we normally do, and that combined with the 1-3-1 trap and the pressure, we just caved,” Bain said.