By Brad Fauber
STEPHENS CITY -- Sherando tried its best to erase a large halftime deficit to Northwestern District rival Millbrook in the opening round of the Region II, Division 4 boys basketball tournament on Tuesday.
The second-seeded Warriors found themselves trailing 16 points after two periods of action, but Sherando was able to trim the deficit back to single digits in the third quarter. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the large lead was simply too much to overcome, as they fell 74-65 to the No. 7 Pioneers.
"We committed a lot of uncharacteristic type of mistakes and they got up on us pretty good," Warriors coach Garland Williams said. "We made a good run at them, but once you make a good run it takes a lot out of you. We were right there, but they did a good job of taking care of the basketball and doing what they needed to do at the end of the game."
Millbrook will play No. 6 Briar Woods on Thursday in the semifinals.
Sherando (14-9) trailed 37-21 entering the second half, but the Warriors appeared rejuvenated in the third period with the return of seniors Aaron Miller and Taylor Loudan, who each missed significant portions of the first half with foul trouble.
The Warriors opened the third on a strong note as senior Tanner Ruths rattled in a 3-pointer on the first possession, and Sherando senior John Harrell scored from the low block to cut the deficit to 37-26 one minute into the quarter.
Millbrook pushed the lead back to 14 later in the period on a 3-pointer by Zach Harrell, but the Warriors ended the frame with a 10-3 run to cut the Pioneers' lead to seven going into the final period.
"That was tough. We did a good job cutting that lead to single digits like we wanted," Warriors coach Garland Williams said, "but we had some looks that we missed that we have to have to make a run, and that's just one of those things there."
Millbrook slowed the pace of the game significantly in the fourth quarter, as the Pioneers chose to work the ball around the perimeter on offense in an effort to drain some of the clock. The strategy paid off, as the Warriors never pulled closer than five points.
Key to Millbrook's hold was free-throw shooting, as the Pioneers were 13 of 19 from the line. Thomas Baylor did a majority of the work at the stripe, scoring eight of his 14 fourth-quarter points at the free-throw line.
Millbrook came up short in the two meetings with the Warriors during the regular season, and Pioneers coach Scott Mankins said they were prepared for a big second-half surge from Sherando this time around.
"We knew what was going to happen and we talked about it at halftime," Mankins said. "They've got some kids who can score the basketball. This time we took their punch and we punched back, that was the difference."
Ruths led the Warriors with 21 points, while Miller scored 13 and Loudan added 10, all in the second half.
Williams said the loss was disappointing, but the Warriors can be proud of the fact that they won the regular season district title.
"I thought we did a heck of a job," Williams said. "We got some wins that we needed to and we were blessed to get those wins and that regular-season championship."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org