From the opening tip, it was evident that the St. Gregory boys basketball team had the upper hand over visiting Tanque Verde on Tuesday night.
St. Gregory, the defending Class 1A state champion, remained perfect on the season and won 69-37 behind a huge first quarter and a stifling defense.
St. Gregory outscored Tanque Verde 26-4 in the opening quarter, using its defense to create turnovers and force bad, contested shots.
“Our plan is to win games defensively. Defense can create offense for you,” St. Gregory coach Paul Baranowski said. “The first quarter was really a nice effort, and if we could play like that the entire game that would be awesome.”
St. Gregory improved to 16-0 overall and 4-0 in the 1A South Region. The win pushed its win streak to 31, which includes closing the 2007-08 season out with 15 straight wins.
It is ranked No. 1 in The Arizona Republic’s 1A poll.
Tanque Verde, ranked No. 5 in 1A by the Republic, fell to 7-2 overall, 7-1 in league play.
St. Gregory’s Bennett Sawyer led all scorers with 18 points, including hitting four of his five free-throw attempts.
Teammate Blake Gephart added 15 points, including three treys.
As it did with its defense, St. Gregory dictated the tempo on the offensive end, using an up-tempo attack that never allowed Tanque Verde’s defense to get set.
“We have guys that can score from all five positions, and that’s helpful,” Baranowski said. “And they’re unselfish.”
Tanque Verde began to figure out St. Gregory’s defense as the game went on, although it was outscored in all four quarters. St. Gregory sat its starters most of the fourth quarter.
“We showed a lot of composure,” Baranowski said. “They know what the plan is and they know they can depend on one another.”
Baranowski said this year’s St. Gregory team has plenty of depth, more so than last year’s championship team.
Tanque Verde was led by Kevin Germany’s 10 points, with three from beyond the arc. Eric Gallardo scored 8 points.
St. Gregory hosts Class 2A Pusch Ridge on Thursday. St. Gregory has several wins this season over schools from higher classifications, including five over 2A schools in the small-school portion of the Boyd Baker Invitational in November.
Tanque Verde next plays at Tohono O’odham on Tuesday.
For more on high school sports, check out the Grammer School sports blog.