The Mountain Pointe High School boys basketball team sent another message to the 6A conference last Friday by defeating Mesa High 60-59 to capture the McClintock Holiday Shootout Championship.
It came down to the final moments of the game as junior forward Jalen Graham stepped to the line.
He made the first but missed the second. He grabbed his own rebound, passed the ball to senior guard Khalid Price, who found DeAndre Henry under the basket for the clinching layup that gave Mountain Pointe their one-point lead.
“We’ve been in a lot of these tight games, so I think it has really helped us prepare for these kind of situations,” Mountain Pointe coach Duane Eason said after the game. “It says a lot that they were able to stay together and get the W.”
Although the Pride came away with the W, the No. 4-ranked team in 6A trailed for a majority of the game. Zach Hobbs, Xavier Fuller and Mark Hatch paced the No. 7 Jackrabbits in the scoring column and different moments throughout the game.
It started in the first quarter when Hatch scored 11 of his teams 19 first-quarter points. After that, he only scored five points the rest of the game.
“We were just trying to wear him out,” Eason said. “I saw him four times last year when I was coaching for Phoenix College and I already knew how tough he was. He is the type of kid who’s not gonna lose.”
Hatch battled the intense Mountain Pointe full-court press all night long, often having to spring up the sideline to avoid being trapped in the back court.
As the game went on, the Jackrabbits started to find a mixture of open three-point shots from the corners and easy looks at the basket. But, the Pride avoided any major damage and stay close with the Jackrabbits.
As time ticked off the clock, the two teams traded long possessions, as both teams held the ball for an extended period of time before converting.
With just under five minutes left in the fourth, Hatch held the ball for close to 40 seconds before finding Hobbs for three of his team-high 19 points.
Mountain Pointe answered right back with a long hold and conversion to take a one-point lead with just under four minutes remaining.
From there, the two teams traded baskets down the stretch until Henry gave the Pride the final lead of the ball game.
Price and Amarion Cash were named to the McClintock Holiday Shoot All-Tournament team as both were a staple in the defensive pressure for the Pride.
They also have been key components in Mountain Pointe’s offense all season long. Price scored 14 against Mesa while Cash turned in a 13-point performance in the championship game.
Mountain Pointe has quickly risen through the ranks to establish itself as one of the best basketball teams in the state.
Through the early stages of the season, it has lost only once, a one-point loss to the No. 1 Brophy Prep Broncos. The team also has scored signature wins over No. 2 Pinnacle and a two-point overtime win over No. 5 Desert Vista.
With about half the season remaining, Eason believes that as time goes on his team will only get stronger down the stretch.
“They are doing a good job and they are coming along well,” Eason said of his team’s performance. “I think we’re definitely gonna be stronger in the back stretch.”
The Pride will take on 6A Central region opponent Highland on Friday, Jan. 5.
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