The Sanford boys basketball team earned a shot to defend their last two state titles with a 53-39 win over Concord Thursday night in the state semifinals at the Bob Carpenter Center.
“We got off to a good start, which we felt was important,” Warriors coach Stan Waterman said. “It got a little sloppy at the end with turnovers and fouls that were uncharacteristic for us, but we pulled through.”
The Warriors (22-1) were led by senior point guard Khalid Hart’s 19 points and 10 from Sabri Thompson, but it was junior center Austin Ford’s 12 rebounds (along with six points) that helped the Warriors keep a lead of at least nine points for much of the contest.
“Austin does a lot of the dirty work for us, the stuff that goes unnoticed by the fans, but it’s greatly appreciated by his coaches,” Waterman said. “He rebounded like a man tonight.”
Concord stayed close until on the strength of a commanding second half performance from senior guard J. Walter Lawson. Lawson scored 20 of his game high 22 points in the second half, bringing Concord to within single digits (40-31) early in the fourth quarter. That was before Thompson nailed a three-point shot and the Warriors were able to keep the Raiders at arm’s length for the remainder of the game.
Sanford will now play Newark, who Waterman characterizes as the biggest and best shooting team the Warriors will see this season. The coach believes that keeping players well-rested in a short turnaround period is key.
“We’ve cut 10 to 15 minutes off of practices recently. Fresh legs are more important than strong legs,” he said. “We’re going to lean on our experience of being here before. We’re going to be fine.”
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