By Chris McCarthy
Sardis boys head basketball coach Van Owen readily acknowledged that the 54-37 margin of victory in his team’s win over Gaston on Tuesday (Jan. 19) was in no way indicative of how close the game was down the stretch in the opening round of the Etowah County boys basketball tournament at Gaston.
“We kept getting fouls called on us when we tried to block their shots, and they made enough of their free throws to stay close,” he said. “We were able to pull away at the end with a few steals and transition baskets, but you’ve got to hand it to Gaston; they played their hearts out. But I’m proud of our kids for playing hard and staying in it and finishing the game.”
The Lions led for the entire third quarter and part of the fourth but could not put the Bulldogs away, and when JaKory Scott sank a pair of free throws with under five minutes remaining, the Sardis advantage was cut to four points.
The Lions stopped the Gaston rally in its tracks after Scott’s baskets, however, outscoring the Bulldogs 15 to 2 over final 3:54 to clinch the win and move on to the semifinals against Southside on Thursday.
Sardis was sharp at the foul line during its late run, shooting a perfect 7-for-7 over the last three minutes.
Owens noted that the presence of Gaston’s Jordan Douglas was a boost for the Bulldogs, who played Sardis without their senior guard in the line-up. Douglas finished with a team-high 12 points.
“He’s really a difference maker on the floor for them, so I give him and [Gaston] coach [Buddy] Wright a lot of credit,” said Owen.
John Holland paced Sardis with 16 points, including 12 in the second half. Patrick Bright added 11 points, followed by Drew Scott with nine and Logan Gaskin and A.J. James with eight each.
The Lions opened the game with a 9-3 stretch before Gaston drew within 13-10 after one quarter. Sardis stretch its lead to 17-10, but the Bulldogs finished off the first half on a 10-2 run that was capped by two free throws from Douglas that gave the hosts a 20-19 lead at intermission.
Sardis quickly regained the lead in the third quarter, but eight points from Sawyer Bryson kept Gaston within single digits. Seth Holcomb’s layup with 17 seconds left provided the Lions with a 34-29 cushion heading into the final eight minutes.
But the Bulldogs did not score from the field the rest of the way and went to the foul line only once over the final four minutes, and Sardis tool advantage of that lack of offense in the latter stages of the contest.
Bryson finished with 11 points.
“We’ve got to cut down on the fouls and not give teams that many opportunities (at the free throw line),” said Owen. “We’ve got a lot of things to work on between now and Thursday, so hopefully we’ll be ready for Southside.”