At one point, Mountain Pointe reigned supreme over prep basketball in Arizona.
The Pride had just knocked off defending champion Pinnacle in convincing fashion, 76-59, to climb to No. 11 in the nation according to MaxPreps.
Mountain Pointe followed it up with a win over North, but then faced adversity it couldn’t overcome.
“We had some costly turnovers and defensive breakdowns,” Mountain Pointe coach Kirk Fauske said. “It just showed that on any given night any team can win. We just couldn’t finish.”
The Pride fell by a margin of three points or less in their next two games against Brophy and Chandler, respectively. But a road contest against Cesar Chavez saw Mountain Pointe lose by 15 in front of a raucous crowd.
“The gym was loud, it was packed,” Fauske said. “Chavez is a good team, we just couldn’t make free throws.
Mountain Pointe was 18-of-34 from the line, which proved to be the difference down the stretch as Chavez connected on eight consecutive free throws.
Following the loss, the team had a Saturday practice where meetings took place, much like they did ahead of the match up with Pinnacle. The meetings were a chance get back to basics and refocus.
“We told them it was the journey to a state championship,” Fauske said. “There’s going to be some highs and there’s going to be some lows. We just have to be mentally prepared and on the same page.”
The meetings worked, as Mountain Pointe played one of its best games of the season, defeating Queen Creek in dominant fashion, 116-45.
The win was a nice bounce-back performance for the Pride heading into winter break, when they travel to San Diego on Dec. 26 to compete in the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic. Mountain Pointe will compete in the national bracket in San Diego, with match ups against teams that have some of the best players in the country.
The tournament provides an interesting aspect for Arizona prep basketball. Should things fall into place in San Diego, Mountain Pointe could meet defending 4A champion Shadow Mountain in the finals.
But Fauske isn’t thinking about that. Instead, he is interested in his team’s a chance to bond during the four-day tournament.
While winning is ideal, he knows that playing against national competition will prepare his team for the second-half of the season and region play ahead of the state tournament in February.
“We fell short of the region last year after losing to Gilbert,” Fauske said. “Mountain Pointe hasn’t won a region title in basketball since 2005. We know how important those games are to get into the state tournament and make the run we want to make.”