The Wildcats' long-range shooting and pressure defense key a 58-39 victory.
TAMPA - No play better epitomized Wharton's 58-39 victory against Sickles on Friday than its last basket of the first half.
After the Wildcats went scoreless for three minutes, junior Josh Simpson drove the lane and was fouled with 1.3 seconds left. He made both free throws, intercepted the inbounds pass at halfcourt, dribbled once and swished the shot for a 35-17 lead.
"I knew they were going to leak out because there wasn't much time on the clock," Simpson said. "Coach put me in the right position."
It was Simpson's third 3-pointer of the half, his team's seventh and Sickles' 16th turnover.
The 5-foot-11 guard scored a game-high 20 thanks to four 3-pointers. He made 4 of 5 free throws.
"That's just the hard work we put in," Simpson said. "Extra reps before practice, after practice."
Pressure defense and 3-pointers was the formula for the Wildcats. They took the lead for good to close out the first quarter. Simpson and Nate Erickson sandwiched 3-pointers around another Gryphons turnover to make it 18-11.
Simpson's hot streak continued when he scored five of his team's first seven of the third quarter. He made his final 3-pointer, then converted a steal with a runner off the backboard.
Erickson, the 5-8 junior point guard, scored his nine from behind the arc.
The punishment continued for the Gryphons (11-6) during the second half despite reducing their turnovers. The Gryphons committed seven after the half, but the lead grew as big as 22. Wharton emptied the bench as 10 players scored.
"Coach just wants us to come out here and jump on everybody," Simpson said. "We show no mercy to anyone."
Cameron Colvin led Sickles with 12 points and added a game-high 10 rebounds. The senior forward also made six consecutive free throws after missing his first.