SAN TAN VALLEY — Poor free-throw shooting cost San Tan Foothills a win on Friday, but on Tuesday, the Sabercats were not about to let it happen again.
San Tan Foothills went on a 12-4 run in the second quarter against district rival Florence and held off the charging Gophers for a 70-61 win.
“We know what type of squad they have,” San Tan Foothills coach Joe Galish said. “They are well coached. They have a lot of talent. They play hard. It’s our sister school so we knew they were going to bring it and we knew we had to match that intensity. I’m real proud of our kids tonight. They did a great job.”
The inability to hit clutch free-throws on Friday led to a 59-52 loss to 3A Central region leaders American Leadership-Queen Creek, but against Florence, the Sabercats (17-4, 2-1) jumped out to a 5-0 lead to start and never trailed — leading 16-13 after the first quarter and then essentially putting the game out of reach in the second quarter.
“In our (region) we have a lot of good teams and if you get too far behind the 8-ball and you are trying to be competitive and do some special things in the postseason, you can’t loose,” Galish said. “These games are really important. It feels good to get into the win column.”
After trailing 38-26 at halftime, the Gophers (11-8, 2-1) went on a 6-4 run to open the third quarter and cut the lead to 10 points before the Sabercats rallied to a 53-37 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Florence would open the quarter with an 11-6 run to cut the lead to 58-50 — the closest margin since the Gophers trailed by three at the end of the first quarter.
“I told them at halftime to chip away, chip away and we did get it close — like seven or eight but then we get a little tired, maybe we could rest this one and then boom they go on a 4-0 run and we have to chip away again,” Florence coach David Silvas said.
Isaiah Delt led San Tan Foothills with 23 points while Kevin Tucker and Jacob Bello each had 12 points.
Malik Payton led Florence with 33 points with 16 coming in the first half. The junior also had nine points from behind the 3-point line and converted 4 of 6 free throw attempts. Eddie Chapple added 12 points for the Gophers.
“I don’t want to take anything away from San Tan, they did their job. We didn’t play our best,” Silvas said. “We didn’t score well. Give credit to San Tan, maybe their defense was doing just enough to harass us.”
Both teams will have a few days off before returning to the court on Friday. San Tan Foothills will travel to Coolidge; while Florence will look to right the ship and possibly shake up the region standings against ALA-Queen Creek.
“The last two games we haven’t been that scoring team that I’m used to seeing in practice and early in the season. We have to fix it,” Silvas said. “We have to fix it, otherwise it’s going to be a long second half of the season. I don’t want to say we’re in panic mode, but it’s getting close.”