RUSH SPRINGS — Sterling fell two points short in the championship game of the Black Diamond Classic last Saturday as Empire squeaked past the Tigers with a 52-50 overtime victory.
Despite the title game loss, Sterling defeated Gracemont 62-22 and Washington junior varsity 52-48 to push the Tigers into the finals. Sterling’s season record is now 9-7.
In addition to receiving the runner-up trophy, Sterling’s Hayden Taliaferro and Max Puccio were named to the All-Tournament team.
“We played better each day,” Sterling head coach Trent Parrish said. “It was a good tournament for us. Each team was good in their own way, and we were able to go compete. We had nine guys who played consistently which allowed us to win those two games and take a good Empire team to overtime.”
Taliaferro finished the finals game with 22 points followed by Puccio with 11. Empire outscored Sterling 5-3 in OT with Taliaferro scoring Sterling’s only points on a three-pointer.
Empire led 29-20 at halftime but Sterling made a comeback in the second half as the Tigers outscored Empire 11-6 in the third quarter and 16-12 in the fourth quarter to set up the overtime period.
“We’re getting to where we compete every night,” Parrish said. “We’re 9-7 right now and that’s a good record. If a few other games go the other way, we’re 12-4.”
Sterling lost by one point to Chattanooga and Frederick and by three points to Cyril earlier in the season.
In the semifinal against Washington JV, Taliaferro tallied 20 points to lead the Tigers while Puccio added 18. Against Gracemont, Taliaferro led all scorers with 22 points as Puccio tallied 12 while Nate Anderson scored eight points.
The opening game against Gracemont was a runaway from the beginning as Sterling led 30-16 at halftime and outscored Gracemont 21-0 in the third quarter.
The Washington JV game started the same way as the Tigers led 33-16 at halftime and were still up 47-30 at the end of the third quarter. However, Washington tried to rally in the fourth quarter outscoring Sterling 18-5, but it was too little too late.
Sterling will host Alex Jan. 13 and then compete in the Comanche County Tournament Jan. 16-21 in the Coliseum at the Comanche County Fairgrounds. The Owls will play Fletcher in the first round 5:50 p.m. Jan. 17.