PONDER — Ponder started slow but erupted for 44 second-half points and used a lopsided advantage from the free-throw line to beat Sanger 79-62 on Friday night.
The Lions (7-1) got 22 points from Clay Morgan and another 18 from Chase Harris to pick up their fourth straight win. But the key was the team’s free-throw shooting, hitting 28 of 33 from line, while Sanger (1-2) finished 8-for-11. The performance helped Ponder extend what was a five-point halftime lead to 14 entering the fourth quarter.
“[Sanger] had us back on our heels and we didn’t start matching their intensity until midway through the first quarter. ... It’s hats off to Sanger,” Ponder coach Jude Stanley said. “But that’s the one thing we preach around here, we don’t feel like we are going to get better unless we play the best possible teams.”
Sanger was 15-17 last year and returned just two starters. But the Indians hung in against a veteran team, getting 22 points from Tanner Thomas. Joseph Clark added 19 as he and Thomas combined for 18 of their team’s 30 first-half points.
Sanger held a six-point lead in the first quarter. Ponder battled back with an 8-0 run for the lead, but Sanger stayed close and Thomas made the Lions pay with a 3-pointer to knot the score at 14-all heading into the second quarter.
Ponder held a 12-point lead midway through the second quarter, but Sanger trailed only by five at halftime.
“We have just two returning starters, so we’re still young,” Sanger coach Robert Sikora said. “It was good to see that energy early and I think we caught them off guard with our zone. But they adjusted, and that’s what good teams do. They shot the ball well, and we’re going to try and keep getting better.”
The Lions opened the second half with a 14-6 run and breezed into the fourth quarter with a 14-point lead. Ponder missed only two shots out of its 10 trips to the free-throw line in the second half, while Thomas scored 13 of his points after halftime.
After Sanger trimmed the deficit to nine points with 2:57 left in regulation, the Lions closed out the game on a 10-2 run.
Sanger 62, Ponder 26
Sanger and Ponder met for the second time in nine days on Friday, with the Lady Indians picking up another convincing win.
Carissa Spiker and Kierstin Bradley scored 15 and 13 points, respectively, to lead Sanger (5-4). The Lady Indians built a 21-point lead early in the second quarter and continued to pour on the pressure as the game wore on. Ponder (1-8) trailed 50-18 entering the fourth quarter.
“I’m not as upset about the loss as I am with our effort,” Ponder coach Greg Gay said. “Sanger is a really good team and they shoot the ball well, but there just wasn’t a lot of fight out there for us.”
Sanger coach Jack Armstrong pointed to a few of his team’s errors, but overall there wasn’t much to fret over. Sanger opened the game with a 14-0 run and didn’t allow Ponder to score its first points until the 4:16 mark of the opening frame. Sanger led by 18 at halftime and opened the second half with a 15-2 run.
“We are getting better every game, and I really felt like our starting five played great,” Armstrong said. “But then again, at times we looked great and other times we looked like we were just throwing the ball around. We’ve just got to keep working to get better.”
Ponder 79, Sanger 62
Ponder (7-1) — Clay Morgan 22, Austin Spiker 2, Cameron Sallee 8, Brady Anderson 18, Dustin Ferguson 5, Christian Worthington 2, Chase Harris 18, Josh Peterson 4.
Sanger (1-2) — Wilding Smith 4, Garrett McLeod 7, Joseph Clark 19, Tanner Thomas 22, Kyle Link 1, Tyler Roelofs 9.
Sanger 62, Ponder 26
Ponder (1-8) — Shelby Melvin 8, Jessica Orozco 2, Shaina Owens 2, Teryana Sledge 1, Avery Leveridge 7, Michala Fenter 1, Lauren Pittman 2, Macie Simpson 3.
Sanger (5-4) — Caitlin Sunnenberg 1, Caryle Morrow 2, Carissa Spiker 15, Jacy Beam 4, Jayce Bell 2, Brittany Donelson 2, Kierstin Bradley 13, Taylor Shepard 2, Jaylen Pegues 8, Brooke Lewis 8, Corey Hammonds 5.