In his first season at Desert Vista, Gino Crump and the Thunder advanced in the 6A Conference state tournament after a far-from-comfortable 81-74 victory over La Joya on Wednesday night.
La Joya stayed in the game only trailing home team and third-seed Desert Vista by five with 1:10 to go in the fourth quarter.
A three-point-play by senior Noah Baumann sealed the deal, giving them a seven-point cushion with 22 seconds to go in the game. No. 14 La Joya (18-5) could not come back from that.
Although Desert Vista (17-5) came up with the victory, Crump said he was not pleased with the leadership on the team, especially with the way they handled the ball.
“We had the game in hand, but our seniors made a lot of un-senior-like mistakes,” he said. “It was an uncharacteristic game for us; we had 25 turnovers.”
Crump credited La Joya for its pressure defense causing a lot of the Thunder turnovers to be forced. But with a total of only 10.3 turnovers on the season, this game was far from where the team sees themselves performing in their next game. They had 12 turnovers in the first half and 13 in the second.
Despite the turnovers, Crump was pleased with how the team shared the ball and looked for the best shot on the floor.
The Thunder had four players in double-digit scoring as Wesley Harris had a team high 17-points, Aishwar Kumar with 10, a personal-season high, Sterling Wilson with 13, and senior Caleb Simmons adding 14.
“Our guys really move the ball well,” Crump said. “We don’t have one superstar on this team, we have guys that really share the ball.”
Simmons, a senior, takes pride in his role as a captain, and he showed that with his scoring and defensive efforts.
“I have to play like the floor general and the leader. I’m the team captain for a reason, and I have to show that whenever we are playing,” Simmons said.
Harris, averaging the highest points per game this season at 16.1, is the closest to being the superstar on this team. Despite his performance, he felt like he could have done more. He said that for their next game, the team needs to be more focused and not let the opponent get in their head.
“We have to take care of the ball and don’t foul, but what really killed us today was not taking care of the ball,” he said.
The team has high expectations going forward into tournament play. They know that if they fix the mistakes made against La Joya, play better defense, and play for each other rather than for themselves, they have a chance of winning it all.
“It’s Me versus We,” said Harris. “If we do that, we will win this year.”
Desert Vista’s next matchup will be against sixth-seed Brophy College Prep on Saturday.
– Hattis is a sports journalism student at Arizona State.