The first eight minutes looked like an intrasquad scrimmage. The next 24 minutes played out like a team which won the state championship.
Nerves, turnovers and missed shots quickly put Desert Vista behind the curve - and Avondale Westview. It was an 11-4 deficit for the Thunder after the first quarter of Saturday's Division I state championship game at Jobing.com Arena.
It also marked the beginning of three quarters of dominance in what became a 53-37 victory and Desert Vista's first girls basketball state championship.
The Thunder exhaled, shook off the sloppy start, fed senior forward Kristine Anigwe for nine of her game-high 25 points in the second quarter and turned the deficit into a 23-19 lead. A 15-4 run second-quarter run capped by a Sabrina Haines steal in which she fed Emily Wolph for a layup at the halftime buzzer.
The lead - and, eventually, the celebration - only grew after intermission. The Thunder used a 7-0 run to begin the third quarter and push the lead to double digits.
That dismal first quarter of turnovers and misfired outside shots became a distant memory. Or possibly forgotten.
"It was a slow start, and a little nervous, and I think we felt a little pressure," said Haines, who finished with seven points and a slew of timely rebounds and defensive plays in the middle two quarters.
"You need to feel some pressure if you want rings."
The Thunder wanted rings. Anigwe scored eight more points in the third quarter, and Lindsey Payton added five as Westview (27-7), like most Arizona teams, couldn't match up with her inside, but she had help.
Emily Wolph - who was serenaded after the trophy presentation because March 1 is her defacto "birthday" as a leap year baby - added seven points in the second quarter. She finished with 11 for the game.
The Thunder made better entry passes into Anigwe which led to a flurry of layups and forced Westview to foul her. Desert Vista's defense forced turnovers and held the Knights to one-shot possessions in the second half. Desert Vista outscored Westview 20-3 in the third quarter to open up a 43-22 lead never to be threatened again.
The Thunder eventually returned to their giddy, amped-up style, but not until they left the court clutching a trophy.
"It was, 'Calm down' (at halftime)," Wolph said. "We were pretty amped to begin with and got caught up in the moment a bit. We came back and got back to what we've done best all year."
Remember Coach P
The seniors and junior began their careers with Rachel Proudfoot running the program. Coach P stepped down two years ago in order to move to Virginia to help take care of an ailing loved on.
"Coach P was terrific," senior Lindsey Payton said. "She brought Emily (Wolph) and I up to varsity and got us thinking about winning basketball. She's a big reason why we are here today."
Payton is one player who benefited the most from the mid-season coaching change a year. She played varsity her first two years, had trouble getting any minutes last year and then started this season.
She is headed to Arizona Christian University.
"It was hard, but everything happens for a reason," she said.
Coleman's quick rise
Desert Vista coach J'ontar Coleman essentially won a state title in his first year as a head coach.
There are coaches who go a whole career without finding a way to win one.
"I was blessed to be put into this position," he said. "It's didn't happen the way most coaches get their first chance, but it all came together because of everyone involved from the administration, the coaching staff, the parents and the players. Like I said, it was a blessing."
Coleman was taking a break from coaching during the 2010-11 season before taking over the DV freshman coach in 2011-12. He was promoted to JV coach the following year and on Jan. 14 was named interim varsity coach.
After that 10-game stint, he took over the program completely.
"For those 10 games I just let them play basketball and let them know I was going to be there for them," he said. "They went through a lot. They needed someone to be there for them."
Desert Vista and the Valley Christian girls basketball teams shared the same locker room at Jobing.com Arena.
It meant the Wolph sisters - DV's Emily and VC's Bethany - got ready for their first state title games in the same place.
"It was pretty cool," Emily said. "I sent her a text. Hopefully, we end up with the same result, too."
The Trojans were the No. 1 seed, but they were unable to finish off their undefeated season as Fountain Hills won 51-36 with Bethany finishing with five points.
The Thunder bring back Anigwe and Haines, two Division I players, Alexis Barfield, Tatum Brimley, Toni Davis.
"We know what it takes now," Barfield said.
Barfield summoned some help after not playing the way she wanted to in the first half.
"I prayed for my Dad to be with me," she said. "I know he meant to a lot of our players. I felt he was with me.
Will Barfield, Sr. was in a car accident in the fall of 2012 and the injuries eventually led to his death.
"He would be very proud of all of us," she said. "I gain comfort in knowing that in my heart."
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.