HUGHESVILLE — The Sacred Heart Gremlins capped off a perfect regular season in boys basketball with a 68-35 win over Northwest on Friday.
In the process, the Gremlins (24-0, 9-0 Kaysinger) clinched the Kaysinger Conference regular season championship.
”It was nice to win a Kaysinger Conference title,” said Sacred Heart coach Steve Goodwin. “That’s a big deal for Sedalia and our school. Honestly, we didn’t even talk about (going unbeaten). We just wanted to win conference and on to the next goal that presents itself.”
Defensively, the Gremlins limited Cortlen Austin who made a free throw early in the first quarter, then was held scoreless until late in the second. He finished with five points.
“I thought we just played good, fundamental team defense,” Goodwin said. “We know Cortlen is a very good player, their best athlete, their best basketball player and he presents problems. We try to contest everything, and I thought after the first four minutes of the ballgame, we were as quick as I’m used to.”
Both teams were comfortable with a quick pace in the first half, as each team had 45 offensive possessions in the first 16 minutes of the game. Northwest coach Justin Wiskur said while his team was comfortable with the pace, it was Sacred Heart’s athletic ability that gave the Mustangs trouble.
“What gives us trouble against these teams is their athleticism and their length,” Wiskur said. “That’s a long team. They may not necessarily be big, but they’re very long and very athletic. What doesn’t get shown in the box score is we ran the floor well, but unlike other teams, we can get the ball to the hoop, these guys were able to stop us with their length.”
After Sacred Heart, the Mustangs get to face the second-place team in the Kaysinger, Tipton, on Saturday before heading into district play next week.
“We’re just trying to take the little things,” Wiskur said. “We just talked about if we can show that type of fight and intensity in our district, we can beat any of those teams.”
The Gremlins jumped out to a 13-3 lead with pair of 3-pointers from Chase Lyles and a three-point play by Stefan Cox. But Northwest answered late in the first with baskets from Chandler Crosswhite and Truman Leicher to make it 14-7.
Sacred Heart’s defense stopped the run before it could bring Northwest any closer. Garrett Strange take a charge, and the Mustangs turned the ball over on the following four possessions while Sacred Heart got baskets from Keyaire Marshall and Cox to end the first quarter with a 20-7 lead.
After a Trey Green basket got Northwest started in the second quarter, the Gremlins went on a 26-2 run, which included 14 Mustang turnovers and baskets by Cox, Clint Spangler, Lyles, Marshall and Strange, including back-to-back 3-pointers from Cox.
The Gremlins led 46-11 at the half, but Northwest came out and scored the first eight points of the third quarter. The Gremlins missed their first 10 shots from the field in the third, and Northwest got baskets from Green, Garren Powell and Ryan Rafferty to cut the lead to 46-25.
“We just wanted to come out with more heart and intensity,” Wiskur said. “They were taking the fight to us, and we were backing down from it. We were complaining about calls and almost feeling sorry for ourselves. That’s all we talked about in the locker room is that we needed to take that same type of intensity to them that they were bringing to us. We came out and did it in that third quarter.”
Spangler answered with six points in the third quarter, and Will Prenger added a 3-pointer to put the Gremlins up 59-27 heading into the fourth.
Cox led Sacred Heart with 21 points. Lyles had 12 and Spangler had 10.
Leicher and Green led Northwest with six points each.
Northwest (7-16, 2-6 Kaysinger) will host Tipton at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Sacred Heart will open Class 2, District 14 play against La Monte at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday in Crest Ridge.