StClair comes out firing, leads Sand Rock boys past Cedar Bluff 57-40

Sand Rock’s Jacob StClair spots up for a corner 3-pointer against Cedar Bluff on Friday night. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

SAND ROCK – It’s a senior-night basketball tradition for the Sand Rock Wildcats to bring out the throwback uniforms. For the past three years, senior point guard Jacob StClair has worn No. 10 in lieu of his regular No. 1 jersey for the special occasion.

When asked why not the No. 3 for his trademark shot?

“I don’t know if they have 3,” he said with a smile.

StClair, for the record, prefers jersey No. 1, and he came out firing the treys against county rival Cedar Bluff on Friday night. He sank four of them in the first quarter and finished with a game-high 25 points. He also pulled down five rebounds in leading the Wildcats to a 57-40 victory.

“It was our last regular-season home game, so we wanted to make sure to win it,” StClair said. “We had to come out and bring the intensity. It was our last senior night, so we had to win.”

Sand Rock coach John Blackwell was curious to see how the Wildcats (17-10) would come out and play against the Tigers (14-12). They were less than 24 hours removed from an 81-77 loss in overtime at Hokes Bluff.

Blackwell got his answer early.

“Last night at Hokes Bluff we looked a little lethargic, so we talked about coming out and trying to get started the right way,” he said. “We didn’t get home until about 10:30 (Thursday night), so you worry about kids being able to come back and recover, and they did. We hit eight threes in the first half. We hit six in the first quarter. I thought the start was good.”

But despite the fast first-quarter start, in which the Wildcats led 21-10, the Tigers roared back to make it a game late in the second quarter. An MJ Adams basket with 43.9 seconds remaining in the first half made it a 28-23 contest, but Sand Rock closed out the quarter on a 6-1 mini-run to take a 34-24 edge at halftime.

“That’s who we are. We’re not going to quit,” Cedar Bluff head coach Johnny Amison said. “They hit us with a haymaker in the beginning. They come out hitting threes. StClair was hitting them from half-court, then other people started hitting them, but we hung in there and fought.”

Sand Rock opened the third quarter on an 8-0 run to take a 42-24 advantage, and by quarter’s end held a 48-32 lead.

Not helping matters for the Tigers was Adams and Bucky Leek both getting into second-half foul trouble.

“That hurts us when they both get in foul trouble. They’re our two lead guards, so when they go out, our offense gets real stagnant,” Amison said.

Adams led Cedar Bluff with 18 points. Aden Green added eight points. Eli McFry and Caleb Tucker both finished with five points.

Bradley Jackson contributed eight points and five rebounds for Sand Rock. Kaden Justice had seven points and nine boards. Ace Ashley netted five point, all on free throws, and four rebounds.

Both teams now turn their attention to the postseason. Sand Rock hosts the Class 2A, Area 12 tournament beginning on Monday, but the Wildcats won’t play until Tuesday against Gaston at 7:30 p.m.

Cedar Bluff opens play in the Class 1A, Area 12 tournament at Spring Garden on Tuesday against Jacksonville Christian at 5:30 p.m.

“This is my favorite time of the year,” Blackwell said. “This is what you look forward to. This is what you play for. On the flip side, this could also be a dangerous time of the year. Everybody starts with the same record. This is the new season and it’s the only season that matters.

“I tell my players, and I’ve been saying this for 28 years, county tournaments are for mamas and daddies. They have to work with mamas and daddies from other schools. The county tournament is what your mama and daddy gets to go to work and brag about. I’d like to win every county tournament, but the area tournament is what you get measured by. I think our guys are ready. I think they’re focused. I think they’re ready to go.”

“We’ve got to get focused on what we’ve got to do,” Amison said. “We’ve been working toward this first (area tournament) game this whole week. Now we’re solely focused on JCA. That’s the biggest game. Now it’s win or go home. They’ve beaten us before, so we’ve got to be ready. We know they can shoot. They play good defense. We’ve got to be ready for them.”

Cedar Bluff’s MJ Adams attempts a free throw in the second half of the Tigers’ basketball game at Sand Rock on Friday. Photo by Shannon Fagan.
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