When the high school career ends and it’s time to reflect, rivalry and postseason games usually rank among the top memories.
It’s why the Elite Eight matchup between No. 4 Mountain Pointe and No. 5 Desert Vista, which tips off at 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena, has so much potential to be something special.
The combination of the both – the 4.2 mile distance between schools and win-or-go-home pressure – makes this one very intriguing with a berth into the Division I semifinals on the line.
“It wouldn’t matter who we were playing at this point in the season, we always have to play our absolute hardest and best,” Pride senior guard Maddy Sulka said. “Coach (Trevor) Neider told us the other day that every game has to be your new best game.
“Playing DV and having them be our rivals just adds more to the hype.”
Especially if it is anything like the regular season meeting when Desert Vista got out to a big lead (25-10), lost it (35-34) as the Pride showed they weren’t impressed by the national ranking or undefeated record before the Thunder eventually pulled it out a 57-53 win at Grand Canyon University on Jan. 20.
The two teams have had their ups and downs over the last month since then, but it might not matter once these two teams get to running.
“It’s going to be such an intense and high tempo game on Tuesday and we can’t wait,” said Thunder senior guard Emily Wolph, who has averaged 18.4 points in five career games against the Pride. “It’s always a competitive game whenever we play them and knowing it’s the last time just makes it that much more exciting.”
The Pride (21-9) have built some momentum in the series after being dominated.
Desert Vista (27-2) had won at least 12 straight before the Pride swept the series last season and took the Thunder down to the wire this year.
It seems Mountain Pointe has rid itself of any mental blocks against the Thunder that can come with any type of losing streak.
“They’re the team to beat and anything can happen on any given day,” Sulka said. “We know what we are capable of, and if we play the game we should, then hopefully we’ll continue to play another potentially last game.”
The teams are similar in that they have big-time post players (the Pride’s Kaylah Lupoe and the Thunder’s Kristine Anigwe) and the heart of the team is lead by tough as nails senior captain guards (Sulka and Wolph).
The key might be a third or fourth option stepping up to make a difference. There are plenty of candidates on both sides (DV’s Sabrina Haines or Lindsey Payton and MP’s Tilasha Okey or Morgan Greene) to get it done.
Someone always does and this time it just might salvage the season.
“The saying goes to always play every game like it’s your last,” Sulka said. “And the fact of the matter is that this could actually be our last game.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.
By the numbers
Mountain Pointe Desert Vista
Points Per Game 53.9 67.9
Rebounds Per Game 39.9 27.7
Assists Per Game 13.0 11.9
Steals Per Game 10.6 17.4
Blocks Per Game 4.4 4.2
Mountain Pointe Desert Vista
Points Per Game Kaylah Lupoe 12.3 Kristine Anigwe 15.9
Rebounds Per Game Kaylah Lupoe 8.6 Kristine Anigwe 7.0
Assists Per Game Maddy Sulka 4.6 Emily Wolph 2.2
Steals Per Game Maddy Sulka 2.4 Sabrina Haines 3.1
Blocks Per Game Kaylah Lupoe 2.9 Kristine Anigwe 2.1