Desert Vista’s boys basketball team rode effective guard play and post scoring to a 66-53 home victory over Red Mountain Friday, in the quarterfinals of the 6A basketball playoffs.
The Thunder defeated Red Mountain by 44 points on December 12, but the rematch proved a lot more competitive, as the Mountain Lions dominated the paint early, seemingly able to score at will in the post to start the game, led by senior Timmy Allen and junior Andre Harris.
“They were really good on the inside, so we tried to give them a little adjustment against them, but we had a really tough time with them,” Desert Vista coach Gino Crump said.
However, the Thunder big men were able to run the floor and score effectively themselves, especially senior Christian Anigwe, who led the team with 17 points.
From the low block, Anigwe was rolling over both shoulders, drawing fouls, and proved too much to handle late in the game.
“Once you get Christian going, it’s really a wrap from there. He has a lot of moves and once you get him going he’s good,” junior guard Isiah Wilson said.
A major key was the Thunder’s ability to create steals on the defensive end, as they have done all year, which led to transition baskets on the offensive end, as they knew it would be difficult for anyone other than Allen, Red Mountain’s star player, who has committed to the University of Utah, to score if he was limited.
“We heard he (Allen) got injured, but regardless we stuck to our game plan, doubling off screens, making sure that he had to use his bad ankle on everything he did,” Wilson said.
What resulted was a lot of steals and easy transition baskets on the offensive end in the second half.
“We just knew that our guards were more physical and faster than them, so we just tried our best to get into them and make them dribble the ball, and make someone else beat us,” senior Alijah Gammage said.
Down 5-0 to start the game, and facing a 13-10 hold to end the first quarter, Jaden Rollins hit a corner three to tie the game at 13 in the second period. Despite Red Mountain battling back to make it a one-point game a couple times in the third quarter, Desert Vista never gave up their lead.
Desert Vista started slow and a bit flat in both of their home playoff games, giving up 5-0 leads in the first quarter in both contests. Gammage said that cannot keep happen if the Thunder want to continue advancing in the tournament.
“I think we need to start faster. These two games we’ve started too slow, but I think that will take us a long way,” he said.
The win constitutes the last game for Desert Vista’s seniors on their home court, and coach Crump acknowledged the magnitude for many of his long-time contributors.
“It’s everything for us. These guys really worked hard, faced a lot of adversity this year, and this was a very emotional win for us,” he said.
Eventually, there will be time to recollect on the accomplishments and memories of a season past, and many games won at Desert Vista High School, but for the seniors like Gammage, the focus is solely on the semifinals, and a shot at winning the state tournament.
“It’s just a stepping stone, onto the next level. It was great playing here, a lot of love from Desert Vista, but we’re thinking about playing at ASU,” he said.
The Thunder are set to face Pinnacle on February 21 at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, in the 6A semifinals.