STERLING — In dancing terms, Newman's boys basketball team is usually content with a waltz to beat teams into submission.
On Friday night, the Comets were drawn into a disco contest against Larry Hawkins in the semifinals of the Newman tournament.
Newman showed it can be effective at that style of ball as well after it posted a 62-43 victory, and with it, a berth in Saturday night's title game against Oregon.
The action was fast and furious for 3 ½ quarters, with the Trailblazers forcing the action with high-pressure, man-to-man defense. The Comets were a bit flustered at times, with 26 turnovers, but were efficient enough on offense to slowly pull away.
“Last night against Durand, they played that 2-3 zone and were going to make us shoot from outside, and the gym was just dead,” Newman senior Kyle Moore said. “Tonight, with the ball going up and down the court, people were more into it. It was a lot more exciting.”
“Up and down games are fun because they're higher scoring and more intensity,” junior guard A.J. Sharp added. “You get into the game more, and it makes it a lot more fun.”
When the Comets got past the Hawkins pressure, they were able to get the ball inside to Moore (6-for-10 shooting, 16 points), outside to Sharp (3-for-6 on 3-point attempts), or on the wing to Nic Miller (5-for-7 shooting in the first half, 11 points).
Head coach Ray Sharp wasn't too pleased with the turnovers, but he was happy with his team's halfcourt offense. The Comets were 20-for-43 from field, and hit 17 of 20 free throws.
“I thought we still got the ball to places in transition that were an advantage for us, like our posts,” Sharp said. “That was important.”
Hawkins (3-5) was unable to piece together any 8-0 or 10-0 runs it relies on with its constant pressure and harassment, and that was a key, according to head coach Chris Bracey.
“We never went on a run, and you've got to give all the credit to Newman,” Bracey said. “They were disciplined, they stayed in their spots and they passed the ball well. We were close, but we were a half a step too late. When that happens, you get burned.”
The Trailblazers got a bit out of control at the end, with several wild shots not coming close to the mark. One player, Jalil Townsend, drew a technical after picking up his fifth foul and voicing his displeasure to the referee.
“To be honest with you, I think they kind of gave up,” Bracey said. “They were complaining a lot about the officiating, and I told them, 'Look, you've just got to worry about playing. Don't worry about the officiating.' They didn't do what we normally do – keep up the intensity on defense, and it seemed like they throw in the towel. I'll take responsibility for that.”
Duane Wright Jr. led the Trailblazers with 16 points.
Star of the game: Kyle Moore, Newman, 16 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists
Key performers: A.J. Sharp, Newman, 17 points; Nic Miller, Newman, 11 points; Duane Wright Jr., Hawkins, 16 points
Up next: Newman tournament championship, Oregon vs. Newman, 7:30 p.m. Saturday