Warriors lifted over Pioneers

WINCHESTER – Sherando boys basketball coach Garland Williams says his team spends quality time working on free throws each and every practice. The Warriors reaped the benefits of that diligence Friday night.

Facing Conference 21A/Northwestern District rival Millbrook for the second time this season, Sherando avenged an earlier loss to the Pioneers by hitting 15 of 18 free throws in the fourth period to cap a comeback and a 55-49 victory on the road.

“You know it’s gonna be kind of hard with the crowd and all the energy going on but really we just work so hard in practice, we do it so many times throughout practice it’s kind of become second nature to us,” said Warriors senior guard A.J. Outler, who hit 7 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter and led all scorers with 21 points and six rebounds. “In situations like this we’re just more comfortable about it than nervous. You’ve gotta hold your poise and stay focused.”

Millbrook (13-5), a 10-point winner over the Warriors (11-7) back on Jan. 8, led by as much as 12 points in the third period after using a 10-0 run between the second and third periods to break an 18-all tie. Sherando cut the Pioneers’ lead to eight multiple times in the third period but finally starting building some momentum when Outler hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from the wing to answer a trey by Millbrook’s Jordan Funk at the end of the third to pull the Warriors within 43-35.

Outler’s 3 started a 23-6 Warriors run to close out the game.

“It just lifted our spirit, gave us hope,” Outler said.

Sherando then began sawing away at Millbrook’s lead, first getting a fast-break bucket in the paint by senior forward Isaiah Armistead early in the fourth period, then getting another 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Outler to pull within 45-42 with 6:08 remaining.

“The biggest thing with our guys is we just kept chipping at it,” Williams said. “We’ve been down at times and not able to come back but just kept chipping at the lead and some guys came in that did some quality things for us. Aaron Banks and Jacquari Hayes did a good job coming in and playing some good defense. Got some turnovers and got the momentum to swing our way a little bit.”

Millbrook pushed its lead back to five on a bucket inside by senior Taryk Baylor after Sherando’s Michael Perry nearly swiped a steal on the pass into the lane, but the Warriors rallied to tie the game at 47-all with 2:26 to play as Armistead hit 5 of 6 free throws during a 2½ minute stretch. All three of Armistead’s trips to the line in that span were earned by driving into the paint and drawing contact.

“We have sets that we have to run but there comes a point in time in the game where you’ve just gotta see how they’re playing against you and just attack,” said Armistead, who finished with 13 points and was 7 of 8 from the line.

Two more free throws by Outler with 1:56 left put Sherando up two points, and the Warriors were able to maintain at least a one-point lead over the next 75 seconds until two free throws each by Alex Morefield (9 points) and Outler – which sandwiched a costly Millbrook turnover with 25 seconds remaining – in the final 32 seconds put the game out of reach.

Sherando attempted just three shots from the field in the fourth period and went to the free-throw line on nine of their final 10 possessions as they began attacking the basket. The Warriors finished 22 of 30 from the line in the game.

“I think it was just the play of the game – we saw that we could attack, we put that shoulder down, believed in it and just went. Everything worked out well for us,” Outler said.

Defensively, the Warriors held the Pioneers to 6 points and just two made field goals on 15 attempts in the fourth period. Millbrook shot 34.6 percent from the floor overall in the game and turned the ball over 11 times.

Sherando, which was very deliberate with the basketball on offense, attempted just 31 shots in the win but hit on 45.2 percent of them. The Warriors, who out-rebounded Millbrook 30-27, turned the ball over 17 times but didn’t have a single turnover in the fourth period.

“That definitely was the plan,” Williams said of the slow offensive pace. “Last time they blitzed us for about a good 12 to 16 points just off fast-breaks. We looked at some things, like if they’re gonna beat us at least get three people down there instead of one or none. We did a much better job with that tonight.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com