PRESCOTT VALLEY – St. Gregory won its second consecutive Class 1A boys basketball championship Saturday night, and the second time felt much better than the first, according to coach Paul Baranowski.
St. Gregory’s 46-32 victory over Elfrida Valley Union at the Bradshaw Mountain High East campus boosted its final record to 35-1.
“It’s definitely better the second time,” Baranowski said. “Last year, we were kind of flying blind, and we kind of snuck up on people. This year, every team gave us their best shot.”
Senior guard Bennett Sawyer took over in the second half for St. Gregory, scoring all of his 19 points. The run included a 3-pointer late in the third quarter and eight free throws in the final 1:27 of the game.
A year ago, Sawyer watched in disappointment as he sat on the bench with a cast on his wrist for the second half of the season. He watched his teammates celebrate, but there wasn’t a true celebration for him until Saturday night.
Sawyer admitted he was nervous in the first half, “but the coaches pulled me aside at halftime and told me to keep playing my game. I was able to calm down and help the team. This feels great.”
Sawyer scored four points, Frankie Mgbolu four and Blake Gephart hit a 3-pointer to help St. Gregory gain some breathing room early in the fourth quarter.
The lead was 38-30 when Sawyer began his march to the free-throw line to keep his team in front. Sawyer also came up with a key steal to keep Valley Union (19-9) from getting back into the game.
Baranowski said both teams were nervous early because they played each other on a number of occasions.
“In the second half, we felt that if we were able to get a two or three-possession lead, we could spread the floor a little bit,” he said. “We have so much respect for Valley Union. They are a good team, and they gave us a fight every time we played them.”
Class 5A-I Southern Region Championships
Boys: Sierra Vista Buena 64, Salpointe 55
Girls: Tucson High 44, Sierra Vista Buena 23
Class 5A-II Southern Region Championships
Boys: Ironwood Ridge 67, Rincon/University 44
Girls: Rincon/University 43, Ironwood Ridge 32
For more on high school sports, check out the Grammer School sports blog.