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Sandy boys survive a scare to stay perfect in league

The Pioneers hit their free throws down the stretch to beat St. Helens 50-44


by: THE POST: PARKER LEE - Sandy guard Jacob Groom gets past St. Helens defender Cody Beisley to finish a fast break during the Pioneers 50-44 win Friday night.

Friday’s boys basketball showdown between St. Helens and Sandy had all the makings of an easy route for the Pioneers, but the Lions made a game of it with a wild fourth-quarter run. Sandy was thrilled to escape with a 50-44 win.

The Pioneers led by as many as 14 points early in the final period, but St. Helens caught fire and stormed back.

“I think we got up on them and thought ‘we got this,’” Sandy coach Jason Maki said. “St. Helens deserves credit, though. They kept playing hard and they made some tough shots. That is what makes them a scary team.”

Sandy did get complacent, but the Lions’ run was fueled almost entirely by junior guard Tanner Long. During one 90-second stretch, he drained three 3-pointers and scored 11 points by himself. Long, who scored 15 points in the quarter and 26 in the game, brought St. Helens to within three points in the final two minutes.

“He got hot,” Sandy senior guard Blake Robison said. “We tried to slow him down, but we ended up just speeding him up.”

Long was hitting everything when he got the ball. With a few more possessions, he might have brought St. Helens all the way back.

Free throw shooting was the one saving grace for the Pioneers. They were in the bonus for the final 6:30 of the game and got most of their fourth quarter scoring from the line. Capped by senior guard Jacob Groom’s two game-clinching free throws with 10 seconds left, Sandy went 11-for-14 (.786) from the charity stripe in the period.

Sandy’s lackluster finish mirrored its shaky start. To open the game, the Pioneers fell behind 7-0 and trailed 13-7 after the first eight minutes.

“We addressed that in the locker room. We have to start better,” Maki said. “I told them at some point, that is going to come back to haunt them. When you spot a team that many points, you can’t always make it up.”

The poor start must have scared the Pioneers straight because they played mistake-free basketball in the second and third quarters. Led by Groom, Sandy cranked up the pace and intensity on both sides of the ball. Groom, who finished with a team-high 20 points, started sinking shots left and right. He scored six points in the second quarter and nine more in the third.

On defense, Sandy’s half-court trap never allowed St. Helens to run any form of an offensive set. The Lions just settled for the first open shot they saw. St. Helens only mustered four points in each of the second and third quarters.