The Sand Devils dominated the Red Rock Scorpions Friday night, easily defeating them 75-18 during a non-conference home game. The Scorpions are coming off a good season last year, but graduated most of their experienced players. The Scorpions were obviously not the same talented team as last year and they seemed to give up in the fourth quarter. Friday night’s game was the equivalent of a glorified practice session for the Sand Devils.
The Sand Devils moved into the serious part of the season the next day with their first conference game of the season against the Monument Valley Mustangs. The Sand Devils went into the game sans Justin Salabiye who sat out both games due to illness.
The Sand Devils got the tip and began the game with an aggressive offense, for the first few possessions, then slowed down the pace after assessing the Mustangs’ defense.
The Mustangs proved to be worthy competitors and they successfully capitalized on some of the first quarter mistakes committed by the Sand Devils when they attempted to drive into the key.
Defensively, the Sand Devils play a tight box-and-one defense in an attempt to keep the Mustangs from the inside perimeter. Offensively, the Sand Devils then used an outside three-by-three perimeter offense and began hitting three-point shots, which forced the Mustangs’ defenders to come out to defend, and opened up the Sand Devils inside game. With both their inside and outside offense working, the Sand Devils took a 23-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
In the second quarter the Sand Devils held a tight man-to-man defense which the Mustangs mirrored while also giving the Sand Devils a bit of static on the inside perimeter, which pushed both teams back to their perimeter games. The Sand Devils were able to gain another five points off the free throw line.
It was about then that Dainian Sloan caught fire and stole the ball several times from the Mustangs. After the steal he’d outlet the pass to Gabriel Gomez or Jordan Varner, who sometimes finished or, just as often, passed it back to Sloan for the assist.
The Sand Devils went into the half with a 34-24 lead.
The Sand Devils kept their fast-paced, fast break style offense churning in the third quarter against the Mustangs man-to-man offense. Offensively, the Sand Devils made some turnovers, but defensively, they shut down the paint and corralled the boards after Mustangs missed several three-point attempts. Their transition offense put several more points on the board.
With Coach Russ Skubal resting his first string during part of the third quarter, the Mustangs regrouped mid-way through the quarter and were able to whittle down the Sand Devils lead to six by the end of the quarter.
Coach Skubal returned his starters to the court in the fourth quarter. Gomez, Varner and Jonah Holiday found openings inside the Mustangs’ perimeter defense and landed several close jump shots.
With the game’s final minutes ticking off the clock the Mustangs brought their “not in my house” attitude. But to little avail.
Gomez further widened the Sand Devils lead adding four points from the free throw line. The Sand Devils won their first 3A regional game 61-54.
Coach Skubal was proud of his team’s ability to transition into new offensive and defensive positions against the Mustangs.
“It was a good win for us,” he said. “They were ranked third in the state going into the game. We went into the game aggressively and that carried over. Our defensive pressure worked well and they ran a 1-3-1 and 1-2-3 trap and we turned [possession] over, then regained our composure and fixed that problem. We knew they were going to zone pretty much all game and they manned us at the end a little bit.”
He added, “We did a really good mixing up our zone offenses and I thought we did a good job on our offensive glass too. We could have done better getting the ball to the short corner and the high post. But I don’t feel like we took many bad shots. Those are all good shots… when you can distort the zone. They wanted to run that trap against us again and we were prepared for it.”
As Skubal preps the team for the 3A North schedule he feels like the team is gaining the confidence they need to have a great season but hopes they also remember to have fun.
“Every team up here is good and talented,” he said. “It’s a good start for us to get on a positive foot in the north region.”
The Sand Devils have an overall 11-3 win loss record. They host the Tuba City Warriors Thursday night at 7:30.