Sanford advances to state in dramatic fashion

The Sanford Indians and their fans celebrate taking the regional championship on Saturday afternoon. Sanford will travel to Loveland to face Crowley County in the state tournament on Mar. 8.(Courier photo by Stephen Jiron)

SANFORD — Over the weekend the valley’s teams competed in 2A regional tournaments to determine the 8 seeds to advance to the ‘Great 8’ bracket for state. Three teams from the San Luis Valley made it to the regional championship games.

On the road despite a six 3-pointer performance from Carlos Parra, the Del Norte boys fell to Highland by a score of 81-76. At home Del Norte’s girls were chased down in the third quarter, their season ending 54-43 at the hands of the Holyoke Dragons. Meanwhile Sanford’s boys waited until the final minute to take the lead and earn their pass to state 42-39.

Overcoming a 12-point deficit isn't easy at any level, it’s even less common in high school basketball. So when Sanford came out flat being outscored in the first quarter 14-2 one might have thought there would be tension. There were three groups that refused to feel that tension; Sanford’s fans, coaches and players.

When Zach Sittler hit the lone basket for the Indians in the first quarter the fans exploded with zero regard for the scoreboard. Even though Sedgwick’s Cougars looked prepared for the perimeter play from Sanford the coaches stuck with the game plan. Despite with the deficit the Indians kept their cool.

Thad Jackson jump-started the offense when he hit the first shot for Sanford from downtown. The Sanford boys would follow Jackson’s lead hitting two more treys in the quarter, one from Sittler and the other from Kylan Anderson. With that the Indians would close the distance to nine points at the half. Anderson was Sanford’s leading scorer with 12 points, Sittler was second with 11.

The same 9 points that vexed Sanford at half were still present at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Indians trailing 35-26. Anderson would hit a 3-pointer in the fourth that triggered a Sanford 12-4 run built on takeaways and fast play to bring Sanford to within one at 39-38, with just a half a minute to go.

The pivotal possession went to Anderson who battled his way inside for the go ahead basket. Sedgwick County was completely deflated as evidenced by the ensuing inbound being mishandled and going out of bounds to become another Sanford possession. Zach Sittler would handle the Indian’s inbound whereupon he would be immediately fouled and deliver two back-breakers from the charity stripe.

The game wrapped with an ill-fated 3-point game-tying attempt from Sedgwick County. With the win, Sanford is the lone team to represent the valley in the 2A class at the State Championship.

In the first round Sanford (19-5-0) will face Crowley County (23-0-0). Out of Ordway, Colorado the Chargers have had a very impressive season, staying perfect. Sanford and the Chargers meet Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Stopping Crowley Country begins and ends with Bradley Carnes-Clabey. Carnes-Clabey leads the Chargers in almost every main category from scoring (375 points), to rebounds (239), and also blocks (52).