Outler’s fourth-period surge sparks Sherando
STEPHENS CITY — Azjier Outler stayed positive.
The Sherando senior could have let some demons haunt him when he went to the throw free-throw line in the fourth period Saturday. Instead, Outler made eight free throws in the final period to help give Sherando a 67-60 victory over James Wood in a Conference 21 West tournament boys basketball quarterfinal.
Outler struggled from the free-throw line in the final period in a close loss against Harrisonburg on Wednesday night and again in the first half against James Wood, but when it mattered the most he came through against the Colonels.
“All practice (Friday) I was really going through it. Every time I missed a free throw I just put my head down thinking about it,” Outler said of the Harrisonburg loss. “I just kept telling myself I’m going to keep missing if I keep that negative energy with me. So I had to think positive, to try to move on.”
The Warriors (14-9) were clinging to a 2-point lead entering the fourth period Saturday. Outler scored 14 of his team-high 20 points in the period.
Most of his points came from driving to the basket, and either making a layup or getting fouled and making free throws.
“They gave me the gap,” Outler said if his drives to the basket. “Everybody else was scoring. So they was more worried about them, which opened it up for me. So I just took it, just played my game.”
The two teams went back and forth to start the fourth period, until the warriors used an 8-2 run to build a 55-48 lead with 1:37 left in the game. Outler had 5 of the 8 points, including three free throws.
Outler missed his first three free throws of the game, before hitting eight of his last nine in the fourth period.
“At the beginning (Saturday) I couldn’t hit nothing, and I was getting frustrated with myself,” Outler said. “…I don’t know what (the problem)was, but I found (my shot) at the end in clutch time. So I’m very thankful for it.”
James Wood’s Vincent Lew hit a 3-pointer with 1:23 left to cut the lead to 55-51, but that was as close as they would get.
Outler, Alex Morefield and Jared Miller sealed the win with a combined 10 free throws in the final minute.
It was the third time the Warriors beat the Colonels this season.
“We knew that James Wood was going to be tough,” Sherando coach Garland Williams said. “It’s always tough to play anyone three times and get three wins out of it, and each time it could have went either way.”
The first half was back and forth throughout. Neither team had more than a 6-point lead.
Sherando was able to stretch the lead to 8 early in the third period as Isaiah Armistead scored 8 straight points for the Warriors for a 33-25 lead.
James Wood (13-10) battled back with a 12-4 run to tie the game at 37 with 1:20 left in the third period.
The Warriors took a 5-point lead late in the period, but a 3-pointer by Lew cut the lead to 44-42 after three periods.
The win was also the 250th career victory for Williams at Sherando.
“I’ve been blessed to have some good players and definitely a good coaching staff,” Williams said. “You don’t just win games by yourself. If you think that you’re in trouble. Your coaches, your players all those folks got to buy into what you want to do, and hopefully things go your way and you win some games.”
Brooks led the Colonels with 21 points, and Lew added 12.
Outler had six rebounds to go with his points. Miller had 15 points, and Armistead had 14 for the Warriors.
Sherando plays at Handley in the Conference 21 West tournament semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Warriors lost two close games to the Judges in the regular season.
“We’ll try to do something to slow them up a little bit with their shooters,” Williams said. “Definitely we have to do a much better defensive job. I think our guys are prepared. We’ll try to do our best to get them prepared and go from there.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com