ANTHEM - Mountain Pointe emerged from a sloppy first half of play to upset No. 14 Boulder Creek 43-36 in a first-round matchup in the Division I state tournament on Wednesday.
While an abundance of turnovers factored into the play of both teams, the defensive effort from No. 19 Pride was the main reason the team will be advancing in the playoffs.
After the Jaguars beat Mountain Pointe 54-47 in the first round of the Division I, Section III tournament last week, Pride coach Trevor Neider knew defense would be the key to returning the favor.
Defensively, Mountain Pointe came ready to play.
"I just thought defensively we played 100 percent better," Neider said. "We didn't shoot much better, but we played defense so we didn't have to shoot as well."
The Pride (22-9) had a total of 13 steals, eight of which came from junior Ashley Clubb and sophomore Kaylah Lupoe, both of whom missed time in the first meeting because of illness.
No steal was bigger than Caitlyn Hetrick's in the fourth quarter, though. After scoring, Hetrick got in front of the Boulder Creek in-bounds pass and put it up for another quick two points, contributing to her team's decisive nine-point run.
To go along with the steal, Hetrick finished with 11 points, three rebounds and three assists.
After only playing about five minutes in last week's matchup, the 6-foot-1 Lupoe was given the assignment of covering junior Sam Young, at 6 feet 3 inches, of the Jaguars.
Lupoe more than completed that assignment, finishing with a triple-double of 10 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and 10 blocks. Most of her blocks came while playing blanket defense on Young, which caused Boulder Creek to go elsewhere with the ball.
Young still managed to score nine points and bring down nine rebounds, but the damage could have been worse.
"Sitting there, I watched (last week's game) and I saw what I needed to do, so I came in this game and played good defense," Lupoe said. "I needed to shut (Young) down because that would give us a chance."
Disorganized play by both sides marred the first quarter. Boulder Creek (23-7) began trapping on defense early in the second quarter, which allowed the team to take advantage of the Pride's mistakes and end the half on an eight-point run with a 20-15 lead.
Mountain Pointe's biggest mistakes came on the simplest of techniques: dribbling. Traveling violations kept the Pride from getting much of an offensive rhythm going through the first two quarters.
"I think it's just a focus thing," Neider said. "We catch it and we just go out of control. That's something we've talked about all year and we work on it every day."
Despite the first-half mistakes, Mountain Pointe came out of halftime a different team, reenergized and confident.
"Halftime we just said if we play defense (and) if we hold them under 40, I said I'd be more than happy with that," Neider said. "At some point, we've got to make something. Luckily, we did."
The Pride move on to face No. 3 Saint Mary's, the top-ranked team in the nation, on the road on Friday.
"It's an honor that we get to play them," Lupoe said. "We're really happy and we're really pumped. Hopefully we have a good game."
Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.