Soroco Rams dominate because they play as if they’re down
OAK CREEK — David Bruner keeps the Soroco High School girls team diligent on defense. The team led West Grand 21-2 after the first quarter Saturday afternoon, but played like they were down by a basket with 10 seconds left.
That attitude earned the Rams a 61-17 victory over West Grand at home.
The entire time the Rams are on defense, Bruner shouts words of encouragement at his team.
“Get that ball,” he yells from the sidelines.
“He just really wants us to play our absolute best all the time, every time we step on the court, no matter what the score is,” junior Sophia Benjamin said. “Every time you come off the bench, he wants you to think it’s 0-0. You have to get after every ball. He just wants to push us to be the absolute best that we can on the court.”
His exuberance works. The Rams forced a turnover or stole the ball almost every possession. Not only did that all but eliminate the Mustangs offense, but it put Soroco into hyperdrive. By halftime, the ladies in maroon led 42-10.
Soroco has all the workings of a playoff team. Defense is locked down, getting steals and rarely fouling. Offense is balanced, with three players in triple digits Saturday. Benjamin scored 15, junior Eden Mayer had 13 and senior Makinley Parker added 13. Junior Kayedence Bruner contributed 9 points.
Their aim is lethal, and their free throw percentage is typically solid. Bruner said 10 missed free throws were the reason the Rams lost 31-26 to Paonian last week. The loss is the only one on the Rams 8-1 record.
“Defensively, we’re really starting to gel a lot better as a group, and when we shoot it well, it’s tough on teams,” Bruner said. “If we don’t beat ourselves, it’ll be hard for us to get beat.
Paonia and Soroco may meet again in Oak Creek on March 6. It will be a true sign of how good Soroco is this year.
Benjamin said confidence is already high among the Rams that they can make a playoff run in 2021.
“We’ve heard from a lot of outside sources that we’re a pretty good team this year, and we got a lot going for us,” Benjamin said. “Bruner keeps telling us we’re one of the best teams he’s had all around, not just shooting, not just defense. … We’re all feeling really good about it, but we know we have to keep our heads and make sure we’re not getting over excited.”
Boys lose tough battle to West Grand
There’s no other way to say it, the Soroco boys basketball team was shooting poorly in the first half against West Grand.
The shots they decided to take weren’t bad, they just didn’t go in. Even senior Tyler Koler-Wixom, who lit up the scoreboard with 24 points in a 73-43 win over North Park on Thursday, was having trouble scoring. Right after a Rams air ball, a shot from junior Luke Duksa went in the basket then popped out again.
The Rams were never able to turn the game in their favor, though, losing 46-41 Friday night.
“We got outworked a little bit,” said head coach Jody Gregory. “I don’t know where our heads were in the first half. It didn’t seem like they were on the basketball court, though.”
Soroco returned from halftime down 21-17. They were still in the game, but something had to change.
The offense didn’t suddenly start. It trickled in like a frozen stream melting.
Scores from Duksa, senior Chase Delamater and junior Jed Kirby kept the game close, 30-24 halfway through the third. However, the Mustangs were still scoring consistently.
Back-to-back buckets from Kirby brought the deficit to 34-31 with one quarter left to go. Kirby and Duksa paced the offense with 14 points each.
“Jed had a good game, he had a solid game,” Gregory said. “Luke, he started the last two games; he’s strong underneath. He rebounds really well, and he’s physical.”
Finally, the scale tipped a bit. Junior Joey McLaughlin used a steal to tie the game at 34, and a Yaconiello rebound led to a basket from Chase Delamater, giving the Rams their first lead with 6:35 left to play.
The good times didn’t last for long, though. Yaconiello fouled out, and the fouls started to rack up across the Rams roster. West Grand used free throws to put the game away.
Rebounds would have been a huge help, too. West Grand had some height on the Rams and were able to make second-chance shots on offense and eliminate Soroco second-chance shots.
“I couldn’t guard the big man. He would turn it up high, pivot, and I couldn’t get there,” Duksa said. “Another reason we lost … second-chance points really killed us.”
Girls: Soroco 61, West Grand 17
WG 2 8 4 3 – 17
S 26 16 11 8 – 61
Scoring: S, Sophia Benjamin 15, Eden Mayer 13, Makinley Parker 13, Kayedence Bruner 9, Shelby Geiger 3, Irene Hoff 3, Kaci Taing 3, Peyton Parker 2. WG, Emma Daly 6, Alex Schake 4.
Boys: West Grand 46, Soroco 41
WG 11 10 13 12 – 46
S 8 9 14 10 – 41
Scoring: WG, A Schake 12, C Multerer 12. S, Luke Duksa 14, Jed Kirby 14, Joey Maughlin 5, Chase Delamater 4, Liam Yaconiello 2.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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