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St. George’s dominates Sacred Heart

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By Bill Sorrell

Energy. St. George’s had it. Sacred Heart did not.

With double-teams, steals, rebounds that led to points, an aggressive defense and an offense that had scorers off the bench, St. George’s dominated Sacred Heart of Jesus High School 68-30 on Jan. 24 at St. George’s.

“That is certainly how we want to defend and that is energy we would like to play with. I thought we moved the ball pretty well. Tonight the big thing was getting off to a better start. We have had a little bit of a lack of energy to start games,” said St. George’s head basketball coach Jeff Ruffin.

“We study the opposition and go over match-ups.”

The district win gave the Gryphons a 13-5 record, 5-1 in West Region District 2-AA and the loss left Sacred Heart of Jackson 11-9 and 4-2.

“We came out flat. We didn’t have the energy tonight. It was one of those nights. They scored off turnovers. We gave them the ball a lot. If you don’t take care of the ball, games get like this,” said Sacred Heart head coach Nick Beauregard, who in his second season.

“I was expecting a lot better game than this. I though we would compete four quarters but we didn’t compete at all tonight. I know when we don’t come in with energy, I don’t expect us to play well. When we come in with a lot of energy and enthusiasm we are a better ball club. I expect a whole lot better (season) than this.”

St. George’s senior and leading rebounder Noah Pope said, “We are just a team that has a lot of fight. That is how we win most of our games. We are an energetic, athletic team.”

It showed. Pope opened the game with a steal. His rebound and layup led to a 13-4 lead. His assist to Hogan Imorde led to Imorde’s second trey of the game with 6:00 left in the second quarter. Imorde would finish with 12 points.

Great hustle by Shon Wooten and Alex Middleton led to scores. In the third quarter, Middleton’s steal led to a basket by Chase Hayden and a 53-22 lead.

Wooten’s aggressiveness led to a tie ball that went to St. George’s in the second quarter. Harrison Mullaney stole the ball after his pressuring defense.

Middleton had a steal in the fourth quarter and guarded Braxton Dancy so intensely that Middleton caused Dancy to hang onto the ball too long, creating a turnover.

A steal by Wooten led to his two free throws for a 62-26 lead with 5:36 left.

The Gryphons’ offense was led by Hayden, who was Tennessee Mr. Basketball in 2016, with 20 points. Last season he averaged 24.6 points per game, 2.6 rebounds, five assists and three steals. This season he is averaging a team-high 26 points per game. With 1:39 left in the third quarter, Hayden had a steal, threw it to Imorde who tossed it back to Hayden who scored for a 48-20 lead with 1:39 left in the third quarter.

Pope added 14 points. The Knights were sparked by Tarreq Williams’ 15 points and 11 rebounds. Most of his baskets came underneath the goal.

“Chase played well. Noah played well. Shon Wooten really hustled and Hogan made some really big baskets. He had a big-time game tonight. Alex came in late and did a good job for us,” said Ruffin.

A senior, Middleton came off the bench to help build momentum that starters had begun. Middleton hit a trey with 3:05 left, giving the Gryphons a 65-27 lead.

Getting the game’s first trey, Imorde gave St. George’s a 9-2 lead with 2:10 left in the first quarter. Later a tip-in by Pope made it 9-4 and
his offensive rebound and layup stretched the advantage to 13-4.

Pope’s rebound and assist to Imorde preceded his second trey and a 20-8 lead.

Isaac Smith scored his two points of the game on a layup with 1:59 left in the second quarter. Watching the play unfold, Ruffin said, “Please….Thank you.”
Mullaney’s trey made it a 16-point lead, 28-12.

Hayden’s layup and free throw helped the Gryphons take a 30-15 halftime lead.

Cullen Hughes hit a good shot for Sacred Heart with 5.1 seconds left in the second quarter.

Imorde sank two straight three-pointers in the third quarter and his second trey with 2:28 left put St. George’s on top 45-20.

Corey Jones finished with three points, Wooten and Will Johns five each, Smith two, Middleton three, Mullaney, four.

For Sacred Heart, Evan Ashlock and Braxton Dancy scored one each, Jalen Brown 2, Dontae Williamson four, Aidan Madwah two, Hughes five.

“We have a senior group. We had a tough loss last night (Jan. 23) to Briarcrest by two and luckily with this kind of veteran group, they were able to put that behind us and come out and play really hard,” said Ruffin.

“We had some guys step up that have been inconsistent lately. A couple of guys made baskets and I thought that was a big key as well. As senior-laden as we are, we have two or three guys who are still developing as underclassmen that we are relying on to be big for us down the stretch,” said Ruffin, in his eleventh season.

There are three NCAA Division 1-bound football players on the basketball team, Hayden (Arkansas), Pope (Yale) and Jones (possibly Murray State).

“I think it is good. It is a different skill set. It shows that you have some athleticism and shows that you have some guys who have been in the trenches and competed,” said Ruffin.

Beauregard, who played at Columbia State Community College and Lane College, noticed the Gryphons’ depth.

“He brought guys in off the bench and they brought the same energy as the guys that started. When you do that you are a good ball club.”

Pope said the Gryphons had a lot to prove against Sacred Heart and did.

“We picked up the intensity. I feel like we played like we were supposed to play. People can’t come and just coast through us. We are a good defensive team and we are athletic. We have got a lot of weapons we can use.”