MILLTOWN – Sanford coach Stan Waterman felt that Tuesday evening’s boys basketball match-up with eighth-ranked St. Mark’s would be important, not just in terms of result, but in spirit.
“I told the guys this was a character win for us,” Waterman explained after the top-ranked Warriors led wire-to-wire and held off the host Spartans 37-33 for their seventh straight win. “Things aren’t always going to go your way.”
“We just had to be ready to play defense for sometimes 45 seconds a possession,” added junior guard Mikey Dixon, who led all scorers with 27 points. “On offense, we wanted to push and get some good looks at the basket.”
Those were hard to come by as the Spartans played their usual tempo-control offense, limiting possessions, holding the Warriors (9-3 overall, 4-0 Independent Conference) to a season low in points and staying in the game after trailing 12-3 early in the second quarter.
“Our guys were a little shell-shocked by that start, but I thought they responded well after that,” St. Mark’s coach Nick Sanna said. “We wanted to get some good looks on offense and I think we did.”
The Spartans (9-3) sliced a nine-point Sanford lead to three at halftime and trailed by one point (25-24) after a Jamai Rice three-pointer late in the third quarter.
However Dixon, who scored 13 of the Warriors’ 14 third quarter points, got a friendly bounce on a three-point shot of his own to end the period and Sanford held on in a nail-biting fourth quarter for the win. Waterman was pleased with Dixon’s offensive output.
“Mikey is capable of scoring the ball and we felt we had a guy on him that couldn’t guard him,” Waterman said.
“They play their defense from the three-point line down, so I just had to work my pull-up jumper,” Dixon said. “Credit to my teammates for getting me open and passing me the ball. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Sanna was pleased with his team’s effort, but feels St. Mark’s can still improve as the season progresses.
“There are no moral victories, but I was proud of how our guys responded tonight,” he said. “This is a game that we can learn from and move on.”
Matt Williams led St. Mark’s with 13 points.