Special to the Journal
SALTILLO – The Saltillo Tigers are still trying to fine-tune areas of their game for division play.
The Tigers got to test some of that effort in a game situation Tuesday against the always tough New Site Royals.
The Tigers were certainly tested, but Saltillo pulled out a 68-56 victory.
“We’ve got to learn to play defense,” Saltillo head coach Craig Lauderdale said. “We’re getting a little better, but we’ve still got to execute and be patient.”
The Tigers (14-7) had good spells of execution during the contest, taking a 17-10 lead through the first quarter, with Karter Meeks sinking a couple of baskets off the bench.
New Site fought back in the second quarter, taking a 27-25 lead on a Josh Knight layup with inside a minute to play in the half. But Meeks hit a shot from the corner with 6 seconds left, and a Malik Randolph steal and basket at the buzzer pushed Saltillo back in front 29-27.
“We went to a zone to slow them down in the second half, then they hit a couple of 3s, and we went back to a man,” Lauderdale said. “And our kids took some charges, and it’s big when you can do that.”
With Tyler Jones and Jawon Smith hitting some key baskets in the third quarter, Saltillo moved its margin to as much as 49-37 by the end of the period. Riley Ivy and Ashton Johnson each connected on 3-pointers to help New Site close that to 52-46 with 6:24 remaining, but Jason Smith scored eight points down the stretch to help Saltillo hold on for the win.
Jawon Smith led Saltillo with 12 points, while Knight had the hot hand for New Site with 25.
(G) New Site 57, Saltillo 24: The Lady Royals defense was tough in the first quarter as the visitors built a 15-2 margin and led the rest of the way.
Allie Moreland tallied 13 to top the New Site (13-6) offense.