Judson runs away with key district win over Steele
After opening with three transition baskets, Judson’s game plan was evident in its District 26-6A showdown with Steele on Tuesday.
If the outsized Rockets were going to beat Steele, they were going to have to run.
And they did. Top-ranked Judson built early momentum with that initial barrage and rode a big first-half run en route to a 60-47 home victory over No. 3 Steele.
“We wanted to come out with an exclamation point with what we do well,” Judson coach Triva Corrales said.
The Rockets (28-4 overall, 10-0 District 26-6A) clinched a playoff spot and opened a two-game lead in the standings. Steele (19-11) and Smithson Valley (23-6) are tied for second at 8-2 with four games remaining.
“We knew we had to come out and beat them in transition,” Judson sophomore guard Kierra Sanderlin said. “We had to tire them out and get the advantage.”
Sanderlin set the pace by scoring all 17 of her points in the first half, including 12 in the first quarter.
“All I knew is I had to get out there and run,” Sanderlin said. “If they could get the ball to me in transition, I could get the layup as quickly as I could.”
Sanderlin worked some easy opportunities thanks to turnovers created by pressure.
The Knights settled in and took a 12-10 lead after Aja Holmes completed a 3-point play at the 1:29 mark of the first quarter.
Judson answered with a 17-1 run over the next 4:41. Corina Carter dropped in three 3-pointers and a layup during the run.
“We had to play to our advantage, and that’s our speed and defense,” Corrales said. “Steele is so big and athletic. We had to counterpunch that with what we do well.”
Steele cut it to 27-17 on two baskets from Ashley Bowen, but Judson closed the first half with an 8-4 run capped by Kyra White’s 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Knights made a move in the third quarter, pulling within 38-32 on Sydney Cajero’s basket at the 2:38 mark.
“We expected that, and we talked about keeping our composure,” Corrales said. “We knew they were going to come at us with everything they had. Honestly, every team has been doing that to us. We’ve been weathering the storm and not rushing things. We got a little out of sorts for a while, but the leadership and our seniors got us back in the game.”
Carter answered with her fifth 3-pointer, fueling a 7-2 run to end the quarter. The Knights didn’t get closer than eight after that.
“The 3s were a big key in the game, and we kept getting the open shots that we needed,” said Carter, who finished with a game-high 25 points., including eight in the fourth quarter to help seal it.
Holmes finished with 15 points to lead Steele. Bowen had 10 points and 11 rebounds.
With a postseason spot secured, the Rockets can focus on securing their first outright district title in Corrales’ nine-year tenure at Judson. The Rockets have won four district championships under Corrales, but each has been a shared title.
“Every step in every game is getting ready for the playoffs,” Corrales said. ’We know we can’t overlook anybody, and we have to take it game by game.”