SHERIDAN — The Sheridan College men’s basketball team got two big wins over the weekend at the Lions Club Tournament at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome.
They weren’t necessarily big wins on the scoreboard, but they were much-needed wins.
Sheridan entered the weekend with a 7-2 record, but the wins came against the Wyoming All-Stars (2), Yellowstone Christian (2), Presentation College JV, Fairchild Air Force Base and Dawson Community College.
While the early matchups gave the Generals’ young roster a chance to feel each other out, Friday’s and Saturday’s games were the toughest tests to date for this year’s Sheridan squad.
Friday’s matchup with Dakota College didn’t start off very well. In fact, it didn’t go very well for much of the game.
Sheridan turned the ball over 26 times, 19 of which came in the first half.
The Generals were sloppy, and they trailed 44-40 at the break.
SC head coach Matt Hammer wanted more energy from his guys. From the five guys on the floor to the last guy on the bench, Hammer preached intensity and focus during halftime of Friday’s game.
While the energy may have been a bit excessive at times — the bench received multiple warnings for standing and cheering too much — it worked.
The intensity picked up and rallied Pablo Rivas to 28 points and 15 rebounds for the game. Sheridan got 56 points from its bench — PJ Savoy (21), Austin Sherrell (19), Montrail Johnson (14), Celio Araujo (2) — and the Generals rolled to a 102-92 victory over Dakota College.
The energy from the second-half of Friday’s game carried over into Sheridan’s Saturday matchup with undefeated Williston State.
“We just talked about the dome being our place,” Hammer said. “We’ve got to protect it. Teams can’t come in here and get wins. We’ve got to protect the dome.
“What worked for us was we didn’t settle for shots early,” he continued. “We attacked the basket and got to the rim on our first few possessions just to get going early. If you’re not ready to play against a team like (Williston), you’re in for a long night.”
The play off the bench Friday from Sherrell, Johnson and Savoy earned all three of them spots in Saturday’s starting lineup, but it was a total team effort as Sheridan battled to an 88-80 victory.
The first-half box score looked nearly identical for each team as the two sides exchanged possessions for the entirety of the first 20 minutes. Williston outshot Sheridan 42 percent to 35 percent to secure 39-38 halftime lead.
But much like they did Friday, Sheridan came out of the locker room with added energy and an adjusted game plan that helped stretch the lead in the second half.
And once again, they got added production from their bench.
Terrell Butler had three steals in the second half as Sheridan began utilizing the fast break to score quick buckets on Williston. Stretching the lead to double figures, the Generals began slowing the tempo and garnering good shots out of their set offense.
Araujo took over, knocking down three big 3-pointers, one of which came the old-fashioned way on a layup plus a free throw.
But Williston brought added energy, too, and it was emphasized on the offensive glass. The Tetons grabbed 21 offensive rebounds Saturday, preventing Sheridan from running away with the game.
Williston cut the lead to five with 57 seconds to go, but it proved too little too late as Sheridan came up big at the free-throw line down the stretch.
The Generals finished the game 19 of 22 from the line, including 15 of 15 from Araujo, Savoy and Illia Antonenko late in the game.
Araujo was perfect — 4 of 4 from the field, 2 of 2 from behind the arc and 5 of 5 from the free-throw line. He finished with a career-high 15 points to go with three assists.
Where the Generals weren’t perfect, though, was with their composure.
Sheridan wasn’t called for one technical foul a season ago, but the team picked up two Saturday, one of the few things that had Hammer fuming on the sideline.
“They were just two bonehead technical fouls,” the coach said. “That’s a sign of a young, immature team. I think we have a lot of talent, a lot of potential, we just have to start growing up a little bit and making better decisions.”
In the end, though, Hammer was relieved. It was a big win for his young squad as they hit the final stretch of the nonconference schedule.
Rivas led the Generals with 21 points and eight rebounds. Johnson added 15 points, and Savoy finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.
Sheridan (9-2) will look to carry the momentum from the weekend into matchups with Great Falls JV and Utah State University-Eastern Friday and Saturday at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome.