The memorable 2018 season for Mountain Pointe High School’s boys basketball team came to a bitter end Wednesday as the Pride fell to Pinnacle High 76-60.
Unlike its last game with the Pride in November when they suffered a crushing 81-45 loss, Pinnacle this time around had a full bench – including two starters who had been out because of injuries.
One of those absent players, sophomore Nico Mannion, proved too tough for Mountain Pointe to handle, notching 21 points along with five assists and seven rebounds.
The Pioneers scored early on post moves and drives to the basket.
When Mountain Pointe tightened up around the rim, Pinnacle passed out open shooters in the corners, leading to a barrage of eight three-pointers that propelled the Pioneers to a 15-point lead at the half.
“They have a really good guard and he was able to shred our defense,” Mountain Pointe junior Khalid Price said. “But really, they just hit the shots we didn’t, and capitalized on the things we didn’t. That was the difference.”
Mountain Pointe’s full-court-press defense, which created chaos and turnovers for opponents all season, was neutralized by careful and precise passes by Mannion and the other Pinnacle guards.
Pinnacle got the ball in play quickly after Mountain Pointe made baskets, which did not allow the Pride to get set on defense and get close to ball handlers.
After beating the Pride’s press, the Pioneers saw limited defense near the hoop, which resulted in a plethora of quick shots.
Mannion said coach Charles Wilde had prepared them all week in practice for the press. With superior dribbling ability, Mannion said he was excited at the prospect of being guarded full-court.
“I love it. I start drooling. I don’t think there’s anybody that can guard me full-court, so that makes it a little easier.”
From that point, the Pioneers were able to run the clock while still attacking. The margin narrowed to nine points in the third quarter, but the result was never really in question.
“They’re a good team, so when you don’t capitalize and they do, you’re going to get a lead,” Mountain Pointe coach Duane Eason said.
Despite the loss, the season will still go down as a success for Eason, who led the Pride to a 26-4 record – arguably the best season ever for the team.
Mountain Pointe will have to recover from the loss of guard Amarion Cash and other seniors to graduation, but can expect the return of the team’s top two scorers in Price and junior forward Jalen Graham.
Eason said the team can parlay success this year into a playoff run in 2019 if everybody puts in the required effort.
“We play harder than anyone in the state in my mind. We fought the entire game regardless of the final score, and we’ll be the same next year,” Eason said. “We’ll have some no-name guys that will work their tails off and we’ll be back.”