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Sanford upsets No. 1 Howard with stellar defense

Patrick GaryantesHeadlines, Sports

a group of people on a court

Sanford Boys Basketball celebrate after upsetting #1 Howard, photo by Nick Halliday

Sanford earned, perhaps, their first of many signature victories under new head coach Tyrone Perry on Tuesday evening when they defeated #1 Howard 37-29.  The Warriors ‘defended’ their home court quite literally because of their defense, which was suffocating throughout the entire game.


The game was set up to be a defensive matchup, as both teams came into the game with a reputation for making offenses uneasy.  However, top ranked Howard’s offense came into the game averaging just a shade under 69 points per game through their first nine to a record of 7-2.  So, the balance had been there for the Wildcats, whose only two losses came to a nationally ranked Neumann-Goretti team in overtime, and most recently to Elizabeth High School in New Jersey.


#6 Sanford came into Tuesday’s contest only allowing 47 points per game in their 6 games this season, earning a 5-1 record.  The key in this one for Sanford was going to be slowing the pace down and limiting their turnovers to prevent Howard from getting easy baskets in transition.


Sanford jumped out to an early 14-6 lead mid-way through the second quarter, before Howard would hit a few outside shots to close the half on a 13-2 run holding a 19-16 lead at the break.  


It seemed as though Howard might have settled in, and perhaps was ready to take the game over.  However, foul trouble would start to catch the Wildcats at the toughest of times.  


Sophomore guard Jameer DeShields would pick up his fourth personal foul with 5:30 left in the 3rd quarter.  At the time of the foul, he had 8 of Howard’s 24 points and was a nice compliment to senior guard De’Mere Hollingsworth offensively, as the Wildcats would briefly extend the lead to 26-18 shortly after he exited.  He would sit until about midway through the 4th quarter.  


The lack of a second scorer would hurt Howard, as they would only score 5 points in the final 13 and a half minutes of the game.


Shortly after the 4th foul was picked up by DeShields, Sanford would finally hit from the perimeter, as Howard dropped into a 2-3 zone defense.  Two three-pointers by Porter Kelly & one from Sean Forrest would erase an 8-point Howard lead & tie the score at 27 with 90 seconds left in the quarter.  The Warriors would add a free-throw to take a one-point lead into the final frame.


The fourth quarter was when you could sense a bit of frustration from Howard, offensively.  The team wasn’t showing it with their behavior, they seemed very level-headed, but their shot selection & patience on offensive disappeared.  The Wildcats would go the entire 8-minute period without a made field goal in the half-court, their only points coming on a fast-break layup by DeShields right after he checked back in.  Howard had a bunch of possessions where there was one-pass and either a perimeter shot, or a forced drive that resulted in a difficult, contested shot at the rim.  They seemed to lose trust that their ball movement would force Sanford to move on defense & create driving lanes.  The Warriors would take advantage of this.  


The Warriors would ‘take the air out of the ball’ in the final 5 minutes of the game, holding a 32-29 lead.  At one-point they had a 90-second possession, where they had a hustle play to keep the possession alive, and a foul called against Howard before eventually ending in a turnover.  Despite the turnover, Sanford was accomplishing the goal of limiting possessions down the stretch for a dangerous Howard team.


Five free-throw makes over the final two-minutes of the game would eventually seal the deal for Sanford’s win, as Howard couldn’t buy a bucket, or free throw down the stretch.  Ebuka Nwobodo’s 12 points led the way for Sanford, followed by 10 points for Porter Kelly.  Hollingsworth & DeShields carried Howard offensively with 10 points each with no other Wildcat scoring more than 3.


To say the result was a bit shocking would be truthful, especially with Howard being held 40 points below their season average.  Having said that, Delaware needs to take notice of this new Sanford program under Tyrone Perry & his staff.  It’s very clear that they are establishing their identity, defense & hustle.

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