DERBY — Maize senior guard Blake Sturgeon isn't a starter who carries the Eagles offensively. They have four players averaging double-figure scoring, while he chips in fewer than five a game.
Tuesday night at Derby, he had five key second-half points as Maize defeated Derby 55-50 to remain undefeated in the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division I.
"I thought he played a real solid game, both offensively and defensively," Maize coach Chris Grill said. "He did a great job of leading our team and taking shots when they're open.... He doesn't take a lot of shots, but when he does, he's pretty locked in."
Sturgeon's first big shot came late in the third quarter. Derby had cut into a 10-point Maize lead, getting to within 34-33 on a fastbreak basket by Cameron Cornelius following an Austin Rodriguez steal.
With five seconds remaining in the period, Sturgeon got open on the right wing and hit the three-pointer for a four-point lead heading into the final period.
"I have to credit Tyler Hosman," said Sturgeon, who scored seven. "He got it deep in the post and he got it out to me, and I had a wide-open look."
Sturgeon also made two free throws with 9.9 seconds remaining — in spite of a screaming Derby crowd — to put Maize up five.
"I wasn't nervous," Sturgeon said. "I had been shaky on my free throws the last couple games, but I had worked on them in practice and felt very confident. I just went up and knocked them both down."
Before Sturgeon's free throws, Maize had made one in its last five attempts and finished 5 of 11 in the fourth.
Maize played a meticulous game through the first three periods, focusing on crisp — and multiple— passes each possession.
"I thought we did a nice job of taking the time to get the ball inside and get the easy passes in the paint," Grill said.
That helped the Eagles offensively as they shot 50 percent from the floor in that span. Of their 16 field goals made, 13 were in the lane.
Derby's offense struggled in the first half — the Panthers shot 25 percent from the floor and scored six second-quarter points.
"We really had a total breakdown on our offense," Derby coach Ryan Herrs said. "We just didn't move. We didn't get the basketball inside, we stopped setting screens, we stopped moving.... There were just too many holes in our game tonight."
The game changed in the final period. With Maize leading by 12 with 5:12 to go, Derby sped up the pace.
The Panthers, during a 14-4 run, got a three-pointer from Zack Steadman, who finished with 17. Cornelius capped the run with a layup following a steal with 31 seconds remaining. Cornelius finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
"I thought we tried to make some things happen and didn't stay patient," said Grill of those final minutes of the fourth quarter. "We were patient for most of the game."
Maize (15-4, 9-0) 10 15 12 18—55 Derby (15-4, 5-4) 12 6 15 17—50
MAIZE: Schultz 15, Davis 4, Lee 6, Sturgeon 7, Langley 13, McCarthy 5, Hosman 5. Totals 22 (3) 8-15 55.
DERBY: Richardson 6, Cornelius 15, Cornejo 2, Z. Steadman 17, Tucker 7, Harrison 1, Rodriguez 2. Totals 21 (3) 5-11 50.