STERLING — Tiger head coach Trent Parrish and his team knew heading into this week’s regional tournament that winning was their only option if they wanted to continue playing basketball for another week.
Sterling, 16-10, split a pair of district tournament games last week with a 73-28 win over Fletcher and a 65-54 loss to Velma-Alma in the finals. However, the loss means Sterling cannot afford to lose another game in the double-elimination playoff format.
Sterling played Union City in the first round of the regional tournament Thursday, but results were not available at press time.
The Tigers advanced to the regional tourney with its win over Fletcher, which it has beaten three times this season.
“We played really well, and we had not played well the past three games,” Parrish said. “Coming out, we played well against Fletcher and Velma, which is the No. 11 team in the state. Nate Anderson and Max Puccio had good nights in both games.”
Sterling played so well in the first half against Fletcher that the Tigers led 56-7 at one point. Sterling started the game with an offensive explosion with 32 points in the first quarter while allowing Fletcher only three. Sterling maintained the pressure in the second period, scoring 24 and allowing only four.
Sterling’s starters were pulled in the second half, as the Tigers scored only 17 points the final two quarters. Senior Nate Anderson led Sterling with 17 points, followed by Max Puccio with 14. All total, 11 Sterling players got into the scoring column.
However, Velma-Alma presented a tougher challenge, as the Tigers found it difficult to score in the second and third quarters. Sterling tallied nine points in the second quarter, as Velma-Alma led 32-24 at halftime. The Tigers didn’t fare much better in the third quarter with only six points as Velma-Alma’s lead surged to 14 points, 44-30, heading into the final stanza.
Sterling was able to cut the lead to five points in the fourth quarter but was forced to start fouling to save time. As a result, Velma-Alma connected on 13 of 14 free throw attempts to seal the win. Sterling outscored Velma-Alma 24-21 in the last eight minutes, but the point difference proved too much.
Puccio led the Tigers in scoring with 20 points, followed by Jayden Huitt with 11 points, Anderson with nine and Hayden Taliaferro with eight.
Girls lose at district
Sterling’s Lady Tigers lost to Velma-Alma in the district finals, 58-50. Sterling had received a first-round bye because of its 19-5 season record.
Sterling played Cordell at Union City in the first round of the regional tournament Thursday afternoon, but the final score was not available at press time. A loss would end Sterling’s season because it already had one loss in the double-elimination playoff format.
Like the boys team, Sterling needs three regional tournament wins to advance to next week’s Area Tournament.