HOCKESSIN — Sanford placed added emphasis on its already defense-first identity as it wanted to at least slow down the potent St. Elizabeth offense in the teams’ highly-anticipated boys’ basketball showdown Thursday night.
The top-ranked Warriors made the game into a statement with their defense as they shut down the fourth-ranked Vikings throughout with Mikey Dixon turning in another strong offense performance in their 65-30 home victory in front of a sellout crowd.
“I think we were able to get more focused on what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to establish an identity, who we are as team, and it’s about playing defense,” Sanford head coach Stan Waterman said. “I thought we came out and did that against a really good St. Elizabeth team, who can score and has some capable scorers. I think for us to come out and play the way we did tonight is a statement.”
St. Elizabeth’s looked strong early when it jumped out to am 8-2 lead after three minutes thanks to three-pointers by Jordan Money and Nathan Thomas, but after the opening surge, the Vikings (7-3) scored just 14 points over the next two and half quarters.
One reason why Sanford shut down St. Elizabeth was that it held Money to 12 points with just five after the first quarter, and the Warriors did that by denying Money the ball while not sacrificing coverage Money’s teammates.
“We wanted to shut Jordan Money down,” Dixon said. “He’s a great shooter, great scorer, and we wanted to take him off right away. We played solid defense on everyone else, and we were able to get stops.”
Sanford closed the first quarter on 13-2 run to take a 15-10 lead after eight minutes, and Dixon scored six unanswered points to start the second quarter to help the Warriors (8-2) outscore the Vikings 19-7 in the frame and take a 34-17 lead into halftime.
Putting the game out of reach in the third quarter, Sanford scored the first 15 points in the frame en route to building a 57-22 advantage through three, and from the midway through of the first quarter to the end of the third quarter, the Warriors scored 55 points because a ball-hawking defense created fast-break opportunities for the offense.
“We just wanted to come out and play hard on defense. Our defense leads to our offense as you could see. We got a lot of points in transition, and that got us going,” Dixon said. “We had energy. We had a big crowd, and our home crowd was great. We had energy all over.”
Dixon was the main beneficiary of the Warriors’ transition game as he scored a game-high 33 points, many of which came off the fast break, and even when Sanford played in its half-court offense, Dixon found ways to score.
“Mikey did tonight what he’s done all year long. He’s kind of let the game come to him. His teammates have done a nice job setting screens and helping him get open,” Waterman said. “He’s getting points within the offense. It’s not like he’s forcing shots. He’s taking great shots, and he’s been making shots. He’s been very efficient. He can really score the basketball. He’s special.”
The loss is the Vikings’ second straight after starting the season with seven wins in their first eight games, and the results of the last two games have highlighted St. Elizabeth’s inexperience.
“At this point, we, as a team, have not learned how to come back and win against the good teams. Sanford is a heck of a team,” Viking head coach Dick Rago said. “We’re young. We have one senior out there, and they’re not used to being in this type of situation we had tonight.”