Sherwood's T.J. Clay, right, drives to the basket on Weston King during Friday's rivalry game at Deerfield. The Knights won, 48-41. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
ALBANY — On Friday night the Deerfield-Windsor Knights showed why they are the top seed in their region.
Admittedly so, they don't shoot lights out from the field and run teams out of the gym. Nevertheless, their combination of pressure defense and composure during close games has proven to be a winning formula.
Sherwood saw first-hand just how good the Knights' mental execution can be as DWS held on for a 48-41 home victory on Friday.
With the victory the Knights (17-3) remained unbeated in the region (8-0) and clinched the No. 1 seed in the region tournament.
"It's the greatest feeling right now," forward Sam Shellhaas said. "We have to stay focused though so nothing like last year happens when Westfield came in and beat us, even though we were the top seed."
Shellhaas finished with a team-high six rebounds in addition to seven points and three steals. Deerfield's Ramello Carter led all scorers with 19 points and four rebounds.
"Deerfield is really good, and they're really good at home," Sherwood head coach Mike Sons said. "We wanted to be close in the end and see what would happen, and ultimately we achieved that goal."
Unfortunately for the Eagles (12-6, 4-3), the goal of an upset was not attained. It didn't help that their top offensive playmaker Rashard Davis played the game in foul trouble before fouling out with 2:21 left in the game.
"It's very tough because the referees don't see everything so they make calls based on what they see," Davis said. "It's tough because they can't catch every call, so we just have to play to the best of our abilities."
Davis seemed poised to have a good night, scoring seven points within the first several minutes. He would soon have to sit after picking up his third foul. In the second half, Deerfield shut him down and allowed him to just a single point.
"Davis is always a big problem, but I thought we did a good job on him," Deerfield head coach Gordy Gruhl said. "We stepped in, took some charges and got him out of the game. That's what you have to do because you cannot let him penetrate."
Sherwood's Patrick Stanford filled in for Davis on the offensive side, scoring a team-high 15 points. Walt Matthews added six points.
Down 26-18 at halftime, the Eagles drilled a pair of 3-pointers and opened the second half on a 7-0 run. Deerfield responded with six unanswered points and eventually went up by nine.
It was much of the same in the fourth quarter as both teams traded runs. But whether it was a timely block from Pete Langstaff (who had four coupled with a game-high six steals and three points) or a heartbreaking basket from Carter, the Knights were one step quicker with their mental execution.
"Our kids have shown a lot of composure in close games," Gruhl said. "We don't have a team that's going to blow you out by 20 or 30 points, so we've got to play good, disciplined ball. (Friday) night we ran a couple of set plays and got some good looks."
With things clicking on the offensive end, the Knights relied on their defense to finish off the Eagles.
"They're always really good on defense; that's their trademark," Sons said. "We wanted to keep it under 16 turnovers but, unfortunately, we did have some costly ones. But we will build on this loss knowing that we were right there with the top team in the region.
DWS GIRLS 52, SHERWOOD 27: Courtney Kelson scored 14 points to lead the Lady Knights past Sherwood, keeping DWS (18-4, 7-1) in first place in the region.
Nyla Perry added 12 points for the Lady Knights, who play again Tuesday at rival Southland.
Michaela Satchell scored 13 points to lead Sherwood.