COLORADO SPRINGS — There may not be a more impressive sight in girls basketball right now than Sand Creek. Behind a suffocating press defense and another "typical" night offensively from Oliana Squires and Liah Davis, the Scorpions (5-1 overall) cruised to a 70-38 win over Palmer Wednesday night.
The win clearly showed why Sand Creek sits atop the CHSAANow.com Class 4A basketball rankings. They are every bit the complete team that often makes a run for a state championship in March.
"They did a good job," Scorpions coach B.J. Johnson said. "As you coach, you always see stuff that they can improve on, but I have to take a step back and understand that they have done a really done job."
And the kicker is that the Scorpions aren't entirely healthy. They are still missing sophomore Conner Proctor, who can be deadly from behind the 3-point line.
Proctor tore her ACL and meniscus in September, but is hoping to be cleared in February, just in time to help the Scorpions in the playoffs.
But they clearly didn't need her help Wednesday. The Terrors (4-5) knew their best chance to keep the game close was not to let Squires and Davis both find their offensive momentum. That appeared to work early as the teams were locked in a 7-7 tie in the first quarter before the Scorpions went on a 12-2 run to finish it out.
Davis scored 12 points in the first eight minutes and Squires was held scoreless. But that trend didn't last for long. Sand Creek put pressure on Palmer, coming out in a 2-2-1 press which frustrated the Terrors.
Squires finally got her first points off an alley-oop, and the route was on.
"They put a little pressure on us and we panicked," Palmer coach Dave Shackelford said. "They had a nice run in the second quarter. To their credit, I would use (Squires and Davis) all the time too. I'd run a two-person game with them."
Davis led all scorers with 26 points while Squires added 19. Tashika Burrell and Abi Torres-Drozd each scored seven for the Terrors.
The offensive explosion — especially in the second half — can be credited to the way the press was able to force turnovers and create scoring opportunities for the Scorpions. After only scoring four points in the first half, Squires knocked down three 3-pointers in the third quarter as Sand Creek extended the lead to 56-27.
"We really focus on defense first," Davis said. "We always say that in order for our offense to come, we have to play defense. So that's really big for us."
Applying pressure is something that Johnson wants his team to do consistently this season, and it's clear that he has the talent on floor to accomplish that goal. It's also beneficial to have an offense that's capable of putting up the numbers that the Scorpions have. And there's still the added potential of getting a solid shooter back before the postseason.
"I'm very fortunate," Johnson said. "They're unbelievable players, first of all, but just with the kind of kids they are, the leadership, working hard and being there every day and knowing what to do, that's the blessing as a coach."