WICKLIFFE–Wickliffe came out blazing hot and carried that momentum through all four quarters to secure an 80-69 victory over visiting Black River in a Division III sectional semifinal on Tuesday.
“I thought we played really good and really tough,” said Wickliffe coach Marc Lewis. “The players wanted it and I am proud of those guys for stepping up.”
Thanks to Bryant Murphy, who scored eight of his 18 points in the first quarter, the Blue Devils came out swinging in the first quarter but Black River kept its composure and trailed Wickliffe after the first eight minutes, 14-13.
“That is something I am really proud of,” Lewis said of Murphy’s fast start. “He has been like that the whole year; that’s the one thing he doesn’t get a lot of credit for because we typically get a lot of outside shots and he gets left out there. But, he has done that the entire year, so it was awesome.”
Wickliffe amped up the defensive intensity and turned Black River turnovers into offensive possessions.
The Blue Devils turned those transition opportunities into points and pushed their lead to 35-25 at the break.
Wickliffe opened the second half with a 3-pointer and rode that momentum to an 18-point lead at one point in the third quarter.
The visiting Pirates made a run in the fourth to cut Wickliffe’s lead to just nine points but the Blue Devils responded and held off Black River down the stretch.
“When we work together, we can’t be stopped,” Murphy said. “We have to keep the energy and also have to be scrappy.”
Murphy finished with a team-high 18 points, all from the field. Michael Culp added 16, Owen Malaney scored 11, and Greg Kita contributed with nine. Shawn Derganc pitched in with seven, Shane Adamski added six, and Zack Beal finished with five.
With the win, Wickliffe improved to 7-14 overall and advanced to Friday’s sectional championship game at Lutheran East.