BEREA — The young and the unflappable. That's Sayre's boys' basketball team.
The Spartans, whose starting lineup is made up of two juniors, two freshmen and an eighth-grader, showed again Monday night that just because they're a kiddie corps, they don't kid around.
After trailing by five points at halftime, Sayre hit the boards and its foul shots to beat Berea 47-44 in the Pirates' sparkling new gym.
The Spartans improved to 8-2, matching their victory total for all of last season.
"That's a good thing for my family," Coach Ted Hall said with a laugh, "because I'm a lot nicer to be around when we win."
Mike Smith, a quick-as-a-wink 5-foot-7 freshman, led the winners with 18 points. He made 10 of 11 free throws, including three in the last nine seconds.
Dakari Johnson, a 6-5 eighth-grader, had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Griffin Miller, a 5-10 junior, had 10 points and five rebounds, including a crucial put-back on a missed free throw that gave Sayre the lead for good (38-37) midway through the fourth quarter.
Ray Brewer, a 6-4 freshman, grabbed six of his seven rebounds in the second half.
"Sometimes with younger players, it takes a while for them to get into the flow of the game," Hall said. "The kids were more aggressive in the second half, especially on the boards."
Berea Coach Bill Smallwood saw it the same way.
"They came out with a little more fire, and got their big guys more involved in the second half," he said.
"I also think we were too cautious offensively. We're not good at a helter-skelter pace. But it's a fine line with high school kids to get them to play quick without hurrying."
Sayre's defense was effective, too. After Berea went up 37-34 in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, it managed only one basket over the next 6:30. The big bodies of Brewer and Johnson, and the quick hands of Smith, Miller and Cabot Haggin kept the Pirates in check.
Once Sayre got the lead, it was content to work the clock and get to the foul line. The Spartans scored 13 points in the fourth quarter, and 11 of them came on free throws.
Hall said his team learned how to handle itself in a close game when it lost on the road at Menifee County early in the season. Smith agreed.
"Now the scoreboard is always 0-0 to us, and we're always trying our hardest to get up," he said.
Berea, which got nine points apiece from Nate Arvin and Nathan Vaughn, will get another shot at Sayre on Jan. 20 in the All "A" regional tournament.
SAYRE (8-2) — Smith 4-9 10-11 18, Johnson 4-7 5-7 13, Haggin 1-3 2-2 4, Miller 4-9 2-4 10, Brewer 0-1 2-2 2, Patterson 0-2 0-0 0, Park 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-32 21-26 47.
BEREA (4-6) — Vaughn 4-14 0-0 9, Arvin 4-11 1-2 9, Hamilton 1-6 0-0 2, Lilly 1-1 0-0 3, Hubbard 1-2 0-1 2, Ambrose 2-5 2-2 6, Miller 2-6 0-0 6, Shearer 3-4 0-0 6, Scudder-Davis 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 18-50 4-7 44.
Sayre 10 8 16 13—47
Berea 12 11 12 9—44