Wasson scripted the game plan to beat Sierra and worked it nearly to perfection en route to a 10th consecutive victory.
“It was very important to set the tempo, because we knew Sierra was quick and fast,” said Thunderbirds senior guard DJ Hanes, who led offensively and defensively with 21 points and four steals in a dominating 69-30 win Thursday. “We needed to start off fast. We didn’t want to have them in the game at the end.”
Wasson (15-1 overall, 7-0 4A Metro League) indeed set the tempo and made sure the Stallions (10-6, 5-2) wouldn’t hang around, bolting out to a 15-3 lead before the first quarter was halfway over. Relentless pressure resulted in Wasson producing 22 steals and forcing 28 turnovers.
“They were just a little step behind tonight,” said T-Birds senior Richie Perea, who scored all of his 15 points in the first half and had three steals. “When a team’s behind, that’s when you want to push on what they’re struggling with. That’s how we got all our turnovers.”
After consecutive baskets by Stallions junior Tytus Winters cut the Wasson lead to 15-7 with 2:23 left in the first quarter, the T-Birds scored the next 23 points. They held the Stallions (10-6, 5-2) scoreless in the second quarter and opened a 38-7 cushion by the opening seconds of the second half.
Sierra found its rhythm in the second half, scoring 23 points and giving reason for optimism for the second half of the Metro League season.
“It’s all about pride, and it comes down to that,” Stallions senior guard Travion Paillette said. “Defensively, they moved their feet more and came out and put pressure on the ball. We just didn’t move the ball and make smart passes. I think we finished strong, but we came out not playing the game we should have. We have to come out and practice harder.”
Winters led Sierra with 11 points and seven rebounds.
Dominic Garcia scored 12 points off the bench for the Thunderbirds, and nine players hit the scorebook as Wasson continued its roll. Its lone loss came Dec. 14 against Poudre in Fort Collins.
Now, with less than one week remaining before the 54-year-old school learns of its fate as it faces possible closure, coach Damion Copeland maintains his players are still focused.
“We can only control what’s going on right now, all about business as usual,” Copeland said. “We have a goal, to win a state championship. The only way that’ll happen is if we’re mentally prepared and keep our focus all the way through. We have to keep our minds right.”