By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando found itself in an early-season losing streak, dropping three games in a row to tough competition with its last victory coming on Dec. 7 against Jefferson (W. Va.).
The Warriors ended that skid on Thursday night in a rematch with Jefferson, topping the Cougars 63-49 for their third win of the season.
Sherando (3-4) used its defense to provide a spark on offense, forcing 23 Jefferson (1-5) turnovers and turning plenty of those into quick baskets on the other end.
The Warriors finished the game with a balanced offensive output, as Aaron Miller (game-high 20 points), Demontay Harrison (11 points) and Isaiah Williams (11 points) all hit double figures.
"That's the way we want it, if we can spread it out and everyone can contribute, that's how we want it," Warriors coach Garland Williams said. "Everybody spread it out and Sherando get a win, that's what we're looking for."
Sherando had trouble containing Jefferson's dribble penetration in the first half as Cougars junior Josh Dudley burned the Warriors' man-to-man defense several times by driving into the lane. Dudley converted on three traditional three-point plays in the first two periods, as he was able to split Sherando's defense for layups while drawing a foul.
Jefferson coach Richard Lewis said the Cougars were experimenting with their offense on Thursday night, with a focus on getting the ball into the paint instead of relying on the outside shot.
Sherando was able to counter Jefferson's ability to drive the ball, particularly in the second half, as the Warriors switched to a zone defense.
"They went to a 1-3-1, they adjusted on that a little bit and threw us off," Lewis said. "We didn't see some of our guys across the court open. We've got to work on that -- guys are not seeing looks."
Sherando jumped out to a quick 6-1 lead to open the game as Harrison, a transfer from Texas, hit a few quick buckets within the first three minutes of the contest.
Harrison recently became eligible to play several games ago, and Miller said the 6-foot-5 senior gives the Warriors the big man that they desperately needed.
"Demontay helps us out a lot, getting blocks and rebounds. He's the key to our whole defense," Miller said. "He's pretty much the guy we needed. He's kind of like a blessing for us."
The two teams battled closely in the first half, as Sherando held a 29-23 lead after two periods. The Warriors' offense revolved around Miller early on, as the senior guard scored 14 of his 20 points in the first half.
Sherando was able to widen the gap in the third period, taking a 34-27 lead on a jumper and free throw by senior Tyler Morris midway through the quarter. The Warriors took a 43-33 lead into the final period when Williams drove the baseline and scored on a layup as time expired.
Sherando's focus on limiting Jefferson's driving ability paid off for the Warriors, and Dudley ended the game with 14 points after scoring 10 in the first half.
"We knew coming into the second half that they were going to drive because they wanted to get fouls, stop the clock and hit free throws to try to get back into the game," Miller said.
Sherando took firm control of the game in the fourth quarter, building a 63-41 lead with 2:28 to play on a jumper in the paint by Williams. That would be Sherando's final bucket of the game, and Jefferson scored the final eight points.
Sherando shot 24 for 49 (49 percent) from the floor, while Jefferson hit 16 of 37 (43.2 percent) shots.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org