STERLING — A hot shooting streak for Sterling quickly disappeared in its Class A Regional Tournament game against Union City last week, ending the Tigers’ season in a 67-50 loss.
After taking an 11-2 lead on the back of Hayden Taliaferro’s three three-point buckets, Sterling found itself in a jam with Union City storming back.
“We just went cold,” Sterling head coach Trent Parrish said. “After that initial lead, we could not hit a shot. We weren’t able to pressure them like we do other people.”
Down by one with halftime approaching, Sterling made some “silly” turnovers, allowing Union City to score nine unanswered points and take a 30-24 lead at intermission.
“In the second half, they (Union City) went on a run and we couldn’t keep up with them after that first wave (of baskets),” Parrish said. “Every time we made a push, they would make a three and end it. We had opportunities and open shots but couldn’t make them.”
Union City pushed its lead to 49-40 entering the final quarter and then outscored Sterling 18-10 in the fourth. Taliaferro led the Tigers in scoring with 22 points, followed by Nate Anderson with 19.
The loss knocked Sterling out of the double-elimination Class A playoffs, since the Tigers already had one loss from the district tournament.
Sterling ends its season with a 16-11 record, which met Parrish’s preseason expectation.
“Going into it, I thought we’d have 16 to 18 wins. I thought maybe if we got on a hot streak at the right time, we could get 20, which would have been a great season,” he said. “I’m pleased with how they started out. It was a big learning year with a new coach and new system. The way we competed was very good.”
Parrish implemented a fast-break style of offense and a man-to-man pressure defense, which was an adjustment over previous seasons.
“I think what we did this year was an accomplishment, especially with the kids learning a new offense and a new way of playing defense,” he said.
Sterling loses three starters – Taliaferro, Anderson and Jayden Huitt – to graduation. However, six players with significant playing time this season will return for the 2023-2024 campaign. Although Taliaferro, Sterling’s top scorer, graduates, Parrish is hopeful more players will step up and fill the scoring void.
“With Hayden leaving, that opens the floor for other guys. Hopefully, we can get those six scoring 10 apiece each game. I think that will make us more balanced,” the coach said.
The Tigers won their first four games of the season, which was a good omen of things to come. However, Sterling dropped some heartbreakers, including a 56-53 loss to Cyril and a 66-65 defeat to Frederick early in the season. The Tigers also dropped a close 52-50 game to Empire midway through the season.
The toughest part of the season was a three-game losing streak that involved games against Snyder, Fort Cobb and Apache.