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Sanaii McPherson lifts Larkin past Bartlett


Larkin enters his sophomore season on varsity Sanaii McPherson He knew he had to step up after graduation Bayley Johnson.

Johnson was a starter for the Royals the last few seasons. One of the players who benefited most from the increase in field space was McPherson.

“This gave me the opportunity to score more goals and added to my leadership role,” McPherson said. “Just being more effective on the field and making sure we get everyone else involved.”

The sophomore guard/forward, who averaged a double-double, has developed into a leader for the Royals. He also had one of his biggest games of the season Monday night at Bartlett.

McPherson guided Larkin to a 51-50 Upstate Eight Conference victory, winning the free throw with 18 seconds left in the game. He scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds for the Royals.

Gabby Ploche Larkin added 10 points (17-12, 11-6). Courtny Bridgeforth And Amadea Montijo He made progress by scoring 13 points each against Bartlett (14-16, 10-7).

Larkin trainer Stephen Knapp He has been impressed with McPherson’s progress this season.

“He’s made significant strides not only physically but mentally as well,” Knapp said of McPherson. “Losing Baylei broke his heart.

“We have a lot of plays designed around the basket for him and he does a great job.”

Although the 6-foot-10 McPherson isn’t as intimidating a presence as the 6-2 Johnson, Knapp said he’s one of the strongest players in the conference.

“The fact that he is left-handed and can finish with his right hand makes him even better,” Knapp said. “We have one to five guards on the defensive end. Good enough to protect them all.”

Larkin’s Athena Arellanes (24) and Mia Carter (0) try to control a rebound against Bartlett during an Upstate Eight Conference game on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Bartlett. (H. Rick Bamman / The Beacon-News)

However, this physical game also had its drawbacks for McPherson. One thing he is still trying to improve is his body control.

“I am the queen in charge,” McPherson said. “I crush people. I’m learning to go up and learn about my surroundings. This is an advantage, but it can also be a disadvantage.

“This can’t even be an accusation and they will file charges. I need to move more and not go in too hard like I was taught when I was younger.

Count Bartlett trainer Tanner Gardon Among those influenced by McPherson’s development

“He’s a really good player,” Gardon said. “It’s scary that he’s only a sophomore. You could see it last year. He uses his body very well. He knows what he’s doing. It’s a tough matchup.

“It will continue to get better. “It’s good for them that he’s a sophomore, but it stinks for us.”

Larkin's Sanaii McPherson (22) prepares to pass while defending against Bartlett's Lilia Crawford (20) during an Upstate Eight Conference matchup on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Bartlett.  Larkin won 51-50H.  Rick Bamman / For Beacon News
Larkin’s Sanaii McPherson (22) prepares to pass as Bartlett’s Emily Linkevich (20) defends during an Upstate Eight Conference game on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024, in Bartlett. (H. Rick Bamman / The Beacon-News)

Larkin took a 21-11 lead in the second quarter, but Bartlett responded with a 10-0 run, making it a back-and-forth affair for the rest of the game.

Back-to-back layups by McPherson gave the Royals a 47-41 lead in the fourth.

Bartlett responded with another 3-point basket Emily Linkevich and Montijo forces a 50-50 tie with 50 seconds left. McPherson made just 1 of 4 in his two trips to the line in the final seconds.

But it was enough for Larkin to hold on.

“It’s easy to be negative when you face a loss like this,” Gardon said. “We had a really solid game. Some girls are making big hits. We tightened up on defense. We got better.

“It’s not the result we wanted, but we’ve gotten better and we need to keep doing that.”

Larkin’s four sophomores were on the field at the end of the game, so McPherson said there were lessons to be learned.

“I feel like we got a little scared at the end, we’re not as ready as we should be, we know we’re on our feet,” McPherson said. “We just had to calm down, stay balanced and play our game.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.


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