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Sterling defense wins day against Gloucester Catholic

When the Knights' Tyra Satchell went down early, the team pulled together.

The point didn't need to be emphasized, partly because it was so obvious.

But mostly, Sterling girls' basketball coach Kate McDonald said, because that's just Anyssa Sanchez's personality.

"I didn't need to tell Anyssa that her role was changing this year, that we needed her to be a leader," McDonald said. "She knew that, and that's what she's been. She's just a quiet, consistent, positive presence."

When Tyra Satchell, Sanchez's self-described "other half on the court" - and part of one of the best one-two punches in South Jersey - went down early in the second quarter Wednesday at Gloucester Catholic, Sanchez had one of her first chances to show why those expectations were placed on her shoulders.

She responded assertively, leading Sterling to a 26-16 win over Gloucester Catholic in the final of the second annual Gloucester Catholic Christmas Classic.

"For the team to step up, against a very good team, in the absence of Tyra, shows me that this team has a whole lot of guts, a whole lot of heart, and a whole lot of character," McDonald said after the Silver Knights improved to 4-0.

"And Anyssa was a huge part of that today. She quietly put the team on her back and willed us through."

A year after serving as role players to the top senior class in South Jersey, Sanchez, a junior forward, and Satchell, a junior guard, were thrust into the spotlight for the Knights.

"Me and Tyra are trying to step up," said Sanchez, who scored a game-high 11 points, grabbed eight rebounds, and had four steals. "But what has really surprised me is that we have grown as a team with every game. It's not just two players.

"It's a great feeling knowing that all of us can pick it up."

With her team leading, 12-6, with 7 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first half, Satchell, who had already netted five points, went down with an ankle injury and missed the rest of the game, though she is expected to be fine.

"Automatically, we knew we had to pick it up, not just me," Sanchez said. "And that's what we did."

The injury turned the game into a defensive battle, one in which Sterling forced 18 turnovers and committed 14.

The Rams (3-1) forced turnovers on five of Sterling's first six possessions in the second half, using the performance to rattle off six straight points and take a 14-13 lead.

"Defensively, I thought we did a great job," Gloucester Catholic coach Lisa Gedaka said. "But we struggled offensively. Sterling did a great job defending us, but I think we gave away an opportunity."

That brief one-point lead was the Rams' only advantage in the game. Sterling proceeded to score 13 consecutive points and allowed only one basket in the fourth quarter, coming with 2:19 left.

Sanchez scored her team's only fourth-quarter points, making 3 of 4 free throws. She also grabbed four rebounds in the period.

"My motto is that our defense is our offense," McDonald said. "If we can play good defense and get our hands on the ball, that turns into points. And it did today."

Sterling 12 1 10 3 – 26

Gloucester Catholic 6 2 6 2 – 16

S: Erica Hoffman 2, Maiya Rawlinson 3, Anyssa Sanchez 11, Tyra Satchell 5, Leilani Naone-Carter 2, Tori Shinkowitz 3.

GC: Rachel Barlage 8, Nicole Fallon 2, Allison Murphy 2, Cara McHenry 2, Nicole Thomas 2.