History wasn’t openly discussed during the Sanford boys basketball team’s quest to win three straight state championships, but after the Warriors defeated second-seeded Newark 58-50 Saturday afternoon in the DIAA boys basketball state championship game, there was no avoiding the fact - Sanford became the first boys high school team in the state to three-peat.
“Not until the other night,” head coach Stan Waterman said of telling the team about their chances after the semifinal win over Concord on Thursday. “We wanted them to focus on one game at a time, but be aware of the moment as well.”
“Coach told us we had a chance to do something really special,” said sophomore guard Anthony Mosley, who scored 16 points on the afternoon. “We wanted to do that and that’s what we did today.”
The Warriors capped off a brilliant 23-1 campaign by using a mixture of man to man and zone defenses to keep the Yellowjackets at bay.
“Dre is a great player and he still had a great game,” senior guard Khalid Hart said of Newark’s Andre Horne, who led the Jackets with 18 in the losing effort. “We just tried to contain him as best we could.”
Newark led twice in the third quarter, but Hart (who led all scorers with 19 points) put the Warriors ahead to stay at 32-30 on a jump stop and floater on a fastbreak late in the frame and the final quarter was a free throw bonanza for Sanford. The Warriors converted 14 of 18 foul shot attempts to keep a lead of at least eight points until the final buzzer.
“Those were huge for us,” Waterman said. “Newark’s a pretty hot shooting team and we didn’t want to leave the door open at all for them.”
For Hart, the lone senior on the team, he becomes the first starting player in the 45-year history of the boys state tournament to win three state championships.
“I’m very happy for Khalid, this is what we were aiming for today,” Mosley said. “To win three championships, and one in your last high school game? It’s good to see him go out on top.”
“I can’t put into words how I feel right now,” Hart said. “I’m just happy I was able to do this with the team I love and a coach I’m really fond of.”
And with the Warriors returning 3/4s of this team, the seeds for a fourth straight title are already planted and growing.
“This is a special group,” Waterman said “We say ‘tradition never graduates.’ We always have some kids ready to step in and step up and hopefully we’ll be back here next year.”
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