ALBANY -- The big bully of GISA Region 1-AAA is coming to visit Sherwood on Friday, but first the Eagles had to survive Tuesday against Southland.
Junior guard Rashard Davis scored six of his game-high 22 points in the final two minutes and Patrick Stanford had a huge block on the final shot of the game as the Eagles held on, 61-58, to improve to 17-1 on the season and 6-1 in region. Sherwood is one game back of region unbeaten Deerfield-Windsor, which visits the Eagles on Friday in a rematch that will likely determine the top region seed.
"Deerfield hasn't crossed our minds," Sherwood head coach Gavin Felix said. "I'm sure they'll be thinking about it (today). We just feel like we're not at that level where we can cruise. Every game has been tough for us in region."
Tuesday's win couldn't have been much tougher for the Eagles. Southland (11-8, 3-4 Region 3-AAA) grabbed the lead for the first time in the second half, 33-32, on Colby Webb's layup with 4:12 left in the third.
"We made some pregame adjustments that were working like a charm for us at the beginning of the game," Felix said. "(Southland coach Ernest Scott) made some adjustments on the fly that took us a little longer to fix. All the credit goes to them (for making it close at the end)."
Stanford, who finished with 12, hit a huge 3 with 3:26 to play to open up a 51-43 Sherwood lead before the Raiders rallied late. Anthony Dunning, who led Southland with 16 points and six boards, drained a 3 with 32 seconds left to put Southland back ahead, 58-57.
Then Davis hit 4-of-6 free throws in the final 30 seconds, the final two giving Sherwood a 61-58 lead with five seconds remaining. Southland's Jose Hernandez drove the length of the court and put up a leaner in the lane that Stanford partially blocked at the buzzer to end the game.
Gary Holloway added 12 points in the win for Sherwood, while freshman MJ Vangure scored nine. Southland, which plays host to Westfield on Friday, got 11 points from Chan Waller.
Now the Eagles can turn their attention to the lone blemish on their record -- Deerfield.
"We have to prepare ourselves and get ready to play against a very good team," Davis said of the rematch with the Herald No. 5 Knights, which beat Sherwood earlier this month, 78-52. "There's no intimidation. We just have to play ball. We're not trying to (settle for second) in the region. We're after that top spot."
The Knights and Eagles are the only two teams in the region with less than two losses. Sherwood just wants to forgot about the first meeting against the defending Class AAA champs.
"We need to refocus and readjust and do a better job of defending and handling the pressure of 'We're playing Deerfield,' " Felix said. "I think that got to us. We really didn't do anything well (in the first meeting)."
SHERWOOD GIRLS 60, SOUTHLAND 51:
Lady Eagles head coach Mike Sons called it Sherwood's "best game of the year on offense."
Sherwood got monster offensive outputs from Maggie O'Connor (19 points, five rebounds), Kaylee Dixon (18 points, 10 rebounds and three steals) and Casie Wright (14 points).
Dixon hit 10-of-14 from the free throw line in the second half to hold Southland at bay, despite 15 fourth-quarter points by Lady Raiders guard Alex Lindsey. Lindsey finished with a game-high 24 points and two steals, but it wasn't enough to come back against the Lady Eagles, who played the final two minutes without Dixon after she fouled out.
"It started to get iffy there for a little bit," Sons said. "We held our poise, though. We're getting better every day."
Tobi West scored 11 for Southland (4-16, 3-4 Region 3-AAA).
Sherwood improved to 5-14 overall, 2-5 in the region.