By Chris Yow
SANTA FE — The hole was just too deep for Santa Fe on Tuesday night, and despite a furious rally in a 29-point fourth quarter, Jo Byrns held on to get a 71-66 non-district road win over the Wildcats.
Every time Santa Fe (1-3) put together a couple of solid possessions to cut into the lead, the Red Devils (7-0) would pull away again. That was until a 14-point outburst from Andy Slaughter, who led all scorers with 38 points, in the final frame got the Wildcats to within four points before time finally ran out on his team.
“I was super happy with the effort in the second half,” Santa Fe coach Brad Slaughter said. “I was super unhappy in the first half. I told the guys at halftime that we have to stop spotting teams 15 points.”
Throughout much of the game, the Red Devils held a 15-point-or-better lead, thanks — in part — to an early momentum swing from an intentional foul call against the Wildcats.
Jo Byrns’ Logan Head went up for a layup and was fouled hard by Colton Steward. The basket went in, but the officials ruled Steward didn’t make an attempt at the ball and erroneously awarded Head the bonus free throw, plus two additional free throws, followed by the ball. The bonus free throw should not have been awarded, according to NFHS rules.
Bryce Cox added a bucket on the ensuing play, and quickly Santa Fe trailed by double digits.
“We’re still trying to find the right group to defend,” coach Slaughter said. “This is our fourth game, and this is our fourth different starting line up.
“We are trying to find the right chemistry.”
That chemistry didn’t expose itself in the first half, unfortunately for the Wildcats, as the Red Devils held a 40-23 lead at the break. Slaughter said his team’s weakness is apparent right now, and other teams are taking advantage of it.
“We don’t get back on defense,” he said. “That’s the scouting report on us, and you could see it on every rebound they were sending someone to the other end immediately.
“We either have to rebound better or get back on defense. That’s it.”
Following the stern halftime speech from their coach, the Wildcats held their opponent to just 10 points in the third quarter, and only 10 of the Red Devils’ fourth quarter points came from the field. They were 11-of-16 from the foul line to ice the game.
Even in defeat, the effort in the second half was enough the Wildcats earned their coach’s admiration.
“I told them win or lose, I’m going to be proud of them if they came out and gave better effort in the second half,” he said. “They did that; we just have to get better.”
Short-handed Lady Cats drop to 0-3: Playing without leading scorer Emmy Bates and key bench player Emily Hopkins, Santa Fe was no match for undefeated Jo Byrns on Tuesday. The Lady Devils earned a 67-25 road win over the hosts.
Jo Byrns jumped out to an early 10-1 lead, and led 14-1 before Jade Arnold hit a 3-pointer for the Lady Cats’ first field goal of the game with 2:41 to go in the first quarter.
The Lady Devils controlled the game throughout with their ability to play with the ball above the hands of Santa Fe defenders with 6-foot-2 center Reese Payne and 5-foot-11 guard Brooke Dowlen.
Santa Fe coach Jonathan Slaughter made no excuses for his team, but their entire season thus far has been a struggle to even get all of his players on the court at the same time. In fact, it’s only happened once.
“The only time we’ve had every player on our team at practice was the first practice of the season,” he said. “It’s frustrating, but we are just trying to take it as it comes and be happy that we’re getting to play at all.”
His team was on quarantine the last two weeks, and he said he found out earlier in the day on Tuesday he would be without Bates and Hopkins.
“We are trying to go out and do our best without putting too much focus on the scoreboard,” he said. “We just have to go out and give our best with whoever we’ve got on the floor.”
Jo Byrns boys 71, Santa Fe 66
JB 21 19 10 21 — 71
SF 11 12 14 29 — 66
Jo Byrns (71) — Jayden Caira 21, Logan Head 12, Bryce Cox 19, Kenny Tolliver 4, Ryan Dowlen 11, Jacob Miller 2, Taylor Head 2
Santa Fe (66) — Landon Evans 5, Logan Wilkins 13, Will Monhollen 2, Andy Slaughter 38, Josh Martin 8
3-pointers – Jo Byrns 3 (Cox 2, Dowlen), Santa Fe 8 (Slaughter 7, Martin)
Jo Byrns girls 67, Santa Fe 25
JB 25 20 16 6 — 67
SF 10 5 5 5 — 25
Jo Byrns (67) — Ashlen Bryant 8, Grayson Bryant 9, Brooke Dowlen 22, Emilie Head 7, Resse Payne 12, Noelle Lancaster 4, Caroline Reed 3, Paige Conquest 2
Santa Fe (25) — Gracie Mills 6, Elise Adkison 3, Hattie Headrick 5, Terralyn Pemberton 5, Jade Arnold 6
3-pointers — Jo Byrns 1 (G. Bryant), Santa Fe 3 (Arnold 2, Pemberton)
All Photos by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports