From start to finish, the Sedona Red Rock High School boys basketball team controlled the first Verde Valley rivalry game of the season, taking home a 69-51 win over Camp Verde High School on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
The Scorpions [5-2, 1-1 Central Region] secured their fifth straight win over the Cowboys [4-6, 0-2] behind senior forward Wyatt Gregson’s team-high 28 points and a defense that had the visitors out of sorts.
“I think our pressure got to them. I think it just wore them down, and I think it got to them. I think we were just a little more athletic and a little bigger,” Red Rock head coach Paul Bain said.
The group of four seniors: Gregson, forward Winston Cox, guard Hayden Bruce and forward Michael Ortega won their final rivalry game at home in front of a relatively packed gym.
In the opening minutes, there were some nerves as both teams traded the lead. Camp Verde was leading 12-9 before Gregson hit four straight free throws to take a 13-12 lead, one that Red Rock would never relinquish.
Gregson scored four more points, the quarter’s exclamation point came on a fast break dunk by Cox, and the hosts led 19-12 after the first frame.
“At the end of the first quarter, after we got all of the jitters out of the way, I think that’s when we started to play better defensively and start making them to be more panicked on offense, and that’s when we started to pull away — using our defense as our offense,” Cox said.
Bruce hit a straightaway three-pointer to open the second, and Red Rock continued to cruise.
Its three-quarter-court pressing and trapping defense slowed down Camp Verde’s offense. Scorpions junior guard Evan Favorite was especially bothersome, roaming the point and disturbing the Cowboys ballhandlers.
“What I liked about today was having Evan roaming,” Bain said. “We’ve got Evan just roaming and just chasing the ball. That was the new piece tonight that showed up that I liked, and so we went with that a lot.”
Ortega hit two three-pointers, and Gregson added four more points in the closing minutes of the half. But, Gregson’s best stretch came at the start of the third.
He finished a bucket at the rim, blocked a shot at the defensive end, came back down and hit a three-pointer, then finished a transition layup off of a quick Cowboys turnover, opening a 49-21 lead. Red Rock led 59-33 at the end of the third and capped off with a buzzer-beating, three-quarter-court basket from Gregson, who pointed to the crowd afterward.
With the game in hand, the Scorpions offense slowed, and the substitutes came on in the closing minutes to finish out the game.
Despite the win, the team has been inconsistent in its play, beating opponents of an equal or lesser caliber while dropping games to the more competitive ones. Coming strong out of the gate, Cox said, should help stabilize things.
“I think for us to be more consistent we just have to be more prepared for the games, and we can’t have those first quarter jitters. We’ve got to be prepared to play hard the entire game and play really good defense,” Cox said. “Because I know if we play really good defense, offensively we’ll be good.”
Stat of the game
Red Rock outscored the Cowboys 50-28 across the second and third quarters.
Quote of the game
“It felt really good, I was a little nervous going into it because I knew it would be an important game for us to win, and I’m glad we were able to beat them, especially at home. It was a really important win,” Cox said.