High school boys basketball: Hot shooting leads the Roy Royals to win over the West Panthers 70-49

High school boys basketball: Hot shooting leads the Roy Royals to win over the West Panthers 70-49

by James Tate

Elijah Sowards dominated the first quarter

It was senior night in the Ted Smith Gymnasium at Roy High School, and the Royals defeated the Panthers 70-49. The Panther’s game plan was to double and sometimes triple team Royal’s star forward Elijah Sowards. The Panthers also wanted to be physical with Sowards and have him earn every point. The strategy did not work in the first quarter, Sowards scored five points, and his physicality was unmatched. “My teammates were finding me inside,” said Sowards. “Cutting around, they would pass it to me inside, and I made buckets.”

Senior Jayden Spencer scored six points in the opening period to lead the Royals. The quickness of Roy’s guards, Corben Schuffenhauer, Bronson Belnap, and Beau Belnap, forced the Panthers off the three-point line and into tough shots inside. Senior Staten Havili scored six points in the quarter to lead the Panthers, including a three-pointer at the buzzer for a 15-10 score to end the quarter.

Royals use balanced scoring in the second quarter

The Royal’s second quarter began with Bronson Belnap driving the lane, getting fouled, and making one of two free throws. The Panthers would cut the lead to four points after senior Malosi Solovi made a three-point basket. At the 6:50 mark, the Royals would go on an 11-6 run to make the score 30-19 and an 11-point lead. The run saw Sowards score seven points and Beau Belnap knock down a three-point basket.

Royals junior forward Isaac Burnett entered the game at 2:00 before halftime and drained his first three-point shot to make the score 33-19. Panther guard Dennis Byrd tried to keep them close with four points in the quarter, but the Royals were getting hot from outside. The quarter ended with another three-point basket by Burnett and a three-pointer at the buzzer by senior Brody Nebeker. At halftime, the Royals had a comfortable lead of 20 points, 42-22.

Burnett steals the show in the third quarter

The Panthers started the second half with a defense to limit Sowards and force the Royals to continue to make outside shots. Sowards made an early free throw but was in foul trouble the rest of the quarter. The Panthers took advantage of Sowards being out early and cut the lead down to 16 after layups by junior R.J. Hansen and senior Kellen West. The score stood at 44-30 with 5:25 on the clock.

The Royals then responded with the play of the night, a three-point basket by Beau Belnap while he got fouled. Beau Belnap missed the free throw, but Jonathan Alcaraz recovered the loose ball and made a layup for a 49-31 score. The Panthers then called a timeout with 3:09 left in the third quarter.

After the timeout, Burnett made a layup and gave the Royals a 20-point lead again, 51-31. Beau Belnap was heating up as he was putting on a shooting clinic and knocking down two more three-point shots to make the score 57-33 with 1:10 on the clock. It was senior night for Roy, but the junior forward Burnett was having a night as he nailed a jumper to end the third quarter to make the score 60-37. Finding Burnett open often showed how much the Panthers wanted to stop Sowards down low. “They would suck in on us, and we would kick it out to him,” said Sowards. “He is our shooter and does his job, and we play as a team and try to get him open.”

Royals close out Panthers in the fourth quarter

The fourth quarter started the same as the third quarter ended, with Burnett making a three-point shot. The Royal’s lead was now 63-37. The game was well in hand as both teams traded baskets and fouls. The Panthers outscored the Royals 12-10 in the quarter to end the game with a 70-49 final.

Outstanding performances

Sowards led the Royals with a game-high 15 points and 11 rebounds. Burnett had a career night with 14 points. Beau Belnap and Spencer rounded out the leading scorers for Roy with 12 points each. The victory on a senior night keeps the Royals in a battle for second place and is always a special moment for the entire team. “It means everything,” said Sowards. “Especially on our home court with the Rowdy Royals, means everything.”

Panthers guard Bird led the Panthers in scoring with 11 points. Senior Isaiah Albertson was perfect from the free throw line, 5 for 5. Kellen West netted eight points in the game for the Panthers.

photos courtesy of James Tate of Royals Jayden Spencer and Elijah Sowards

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