The late game Friday night in the Tri-County Tournament didn’t end the way it began. Sayre won the game 39-36 and advances to play in the consolation final against the Mangum Tigers.
Navajo was too much for Sayre to handle on both ends of the floor in the first half. However, the second half was almost a mirror of the first but this time Sayre would be the dominant team.
Even that description is not entirely accurate. I pride myself on not being a negative writer. I find that it doesn’t do any good to kick someone when they are down, especially if they are young amateur athletes.
Sometimes the truth can hurt. The truth of this game is Navajo fell into a trap. The trap of playing “not to lose” instead of playing to win. Sure, everybody wants to win, and most of the time the teams that are expected to win do actually win.
Navajo led at the half 26-13. At one time in the game, Navajo was up by 18 points. It looked easy. It was easy. Navajo was dominant inside the paint and on the perimeter. They were quickly getting into foul trouble and Navajo was on cruise control.
Since I wrote the Thursday article called Gym Rats – making a sharp shooter, I think I will continue to discuss shooting. I will try to cover the good and the not so good examples of shooting.
Early in the second half Sayre quit relying on the long ball (too many misses), and began to drive and pull up some mid-range efforts. Making it all the way to the hoop was almost impossible for them against Navajo. Nathan Cross of Navajo continued to reject shots all night and unofficially I had him with at least eight blocks. Sayre knew that getting to the rim was no good. After a first half of about 5 percent from three-point range, the Eagles were left with little choice but to pull up on the drive.
After two of these mid-rangers fell and Sayre got a stop on the defensive end, the Sayre coach yelled out some rousing encouragement to his kids. His voice began to elevate as he clapped his hands to spur his boys on. “Let’s go! Let’s go!” said the Sayre boys coach, “We can get ten-footers all night long!”
Those words immediately struck a nerve with me. Because it’s exactly what I’ve been trying to write about, talk about and teach the youngsters I work with.
Some might say that this is an “old school” style of hoops. Last I checked the hoop was at ten feet and buckets still count as two points. If it’s old school, so be it. The teams, players that embrace this “old school” style will be the ones scoring and winning. You players should stop one dribble earlier before you go banging into the defender. Then you won’t have to complain about a charge/block call that you put in the hands of a referee. Instead, elevate to the peak of the jump Russell Westbrook style and enjoy your uncontested four, six, eight or ten foot jumpers all night long.
Sayre began to hit those eight and ten footers for the rest of the fourth quarter. Navajo fell back at the five minute mark in the fourth quarter and tried to run out the clock. Add to that Navajo missing almost every foul shot taken in the final quarter and it was the high school equivalent to watching an NFL prevent defense.
Sayre had all the bounce in their step necessary to close the game while Navajo spent their energy trying “not” to score.
Sayre outscored Navajo 26-10 in the second half and the Eagles moved on to face Mangum in the consolation finals Saturday WOSCV.
Navajo exits the Tri-County Tournament with an o-2 record. In fact, Navajo is the only school in the tournament without a win by either the girls or boys.
Reach Brad Gilbert@482-1221 ext. 2076