Freshman Leah Barnett leads Sandy with four 3-pointers in win over St. Helens

by: SANDY POST: PARKER LEE - Sandys Molly Nutt squares up for a 3-pointer during the Pioneers 47-40 win over St. Helens last week.As the Sandy girls’ basketball team was running through practice on Thursday, head coach Ryan Alexander abruptly stopped play after freshman Leah Barnett passed up an open 3-pointer. Alexander walked out on the floor and instructed Barnett to take a shot from five feet behind the 3-point arc. The shot missed off the front of the rim, so Alexander had her do it a second time. Swish.

Barnett got the message that she should trust her range. She drilled four 3-pointers and scored a career-high 16 points on Friday to lead the Pioneers to a 47-40 win over St. Helens.

“I told her that when she is open and doesn’t shoot it hurts us, and she took that to heart,” Alexander said. “She knows she is supposed to shoot and she is gaining the confidence that she can do it.”

Barnett knocked down a 3 in every quarter and had two or three more throughout the contest that rimmed in-and-out. Three of her four makes came in response to 3-pointers from St. Helens. In the first quarter, Sandy jumped out to an 8-2 lead, but Rianne Tupper gave the Lions some confidence by hitting a trey from the corner. On the subsequent possession, Barnett answered with a 3-ball to keep the momentum on the Pioneers’ side.

With about two minutes left in the second quarter, Tupper hit her third 3-pointer of the half to cut a 10-point Sandy lead to seven points. The Pioneers found Barnett on the other end who buried her shot from downtown.

In the final period, Sandy was comfortably leading by 18 points when St. Helens guard Nicole Harcourt hit a 3-pointer. About 30 seconds later, Barnett nailed a 3 of her own to seal the game for the Pioneers.

”With the way she has been improving, a game like this has been coming for her,” Alexander said. “She has stepped up and she is going to be a shooter and a scorer for us.”

St. Helens went on a 10-1 run to end the contest, but it had no bearing on the outcome.

The Pioneers were brilliant defensively for the first three quarters. To open the game, Sandy forced the Lions into turnovers on their first four possessions. St. Helens didn’t get the ball inside the 3-point arc or attempt a shot in the first three minutes. The turnovers led to some easy points in transition for Sandy.

“Our ability to come out with that energy set the tone for the rest of the game,” Alexander said. “Of late, we have been trying to be the aggressor, whether it be attacking offensively or anticipating and getting steals on defense.”

Sandy was just as stifling defensively after halftime as it only allowed one field-goal attempt in the first three minutes of the third quarter. With three minutes remaining in the period, St. Helens had just 15 total points and the Lions didn’t score in the quarter until the 2:42 mark. The Pioneers went on a 9-0 run in that time frame to turn their 10-point halftime lead into a 19-point advantage.

Barnett’s 16 points led all scorers. She was followed by Raquel Pellecer who ended the night with 12 points.

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