The rivalry between Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe on the hardwood quickly turned into a lopsided affair on Friday night in Ahwatukee, as the Thunder gained momentum early and dominated the Pride, 70-53.
“We have a little saying about someone coming into your home uninvited,” Thunder coach Gino Crump said. “Taking your food out of your refrigerator and eating it without permission and then putting their feet up on the sofa.
“That’s the analogy we used and they responded.”
Desert Vista (10-7, 2-1) came out firing on all cylinders, forcing Mountain Pointe (13-6, 2-1) to play up to its speed early on in the contest. The Thunder’s quickness at the guard position created open lanes and easy buckets, while its lockdown zone defense forced miscues and turnovers by the Pride.
Midway through the first quarter, Mountain Pointe had scored just one point. A dramatic change of pace from the Pride’s previous outings.
Desert Vista’s early momentum continued throughout the first quarter, as the Thunder built up to an 18-7 lead. In the second, however, Mountain Pointe came storming back.
Jalen Graham, who sat out Mountain Pointe’s contest against Highland on Tuesday due to an illness, provided a much-needed spark in the second quarter. That, combined with an impressive effort from guard’s J’Saan Strover and Khalid Price, who scored a combined 29 points, had the Pride within four points of the Thunder with just over six minutes to play in the half.
But just as they had throughout the first quarter, Desert Vista once again found a rhythm. Three 3-pointers from junior Jackson Risi, who finished with 15 points, along with impressive play by freshman Andrew King (18 points), shifted any momentum Mountain Pointe had back to Desert Vista, as the Thunder once again had built to a double-digit lead.
“I knew we would play well,” Crump said. “We can play like this, we can do this. We just need to be consistent.”
The matchup between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista was slated to be a battle down low, with Graham matching up with Thunder center Osasere Ighodaro.
Needless to say, the two showcased their talent in the third quarter.
Ighodaro and Graham turned the game into a personal dunk contest, trading blows at each end of the floor. Each emphatic dunk was met with a boisterous reaction from the large, standing-room only crowd.
Graham, an ASU commit, finished with 15 points and four blocks, while Ighodaro had 14 points and a pair of blocks of his own.
“I expected it to be tough, I knew I had to play hard and play strong because we are under-sized,” Ighodaro said. “But we played as a team and that’s all we want.”
Mountain Pointe was never able to overcome the halftime deficit. Every time the Pride went on a run to diminish the lead, Desert Vista would answer with a run of its own.
The win gives the Desert Vista momentum heading deeper into region play, as it takes on Corona del Sol (12-7, 3-0) at home on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Mountain Pointe will look to get back in the win column when it hosts Desert Ridge (6-12, 0-3) on Tuesday.
“There’s no front-runner for the state championship,” Ighodaro said. “We think we are in it as much as anybody else. We know we can win it.”