The No. 5-seeded Mountain Pointe Pride high school boys basketball team cruised to a 76-48 victory Friday night against the No. 13-seeded Chandler Wolves in the quarterfinals of the AIA 6A state tournament.
Mountain Pointe started the game hot, going on a 7-0 run and finished the first quarter with a 19-8 lead, using a full-court press and trapping when possible.
In a game where Chandler never held the lead, Mountain Pointe implemented a fast-paced offensive strategy, swinging the ball around the perimeter to find the best shot possible.
“What I was impressed with was how hard they move the ball, how fast the ball was whipping around the 3-point line,” said Chandler head coach Jonathan Rother. “Just seemed like we were playing catch up defensively the whole game, whether we we’re in man or zone.”
Senior guard Amarion Cash led the Pride with 16 points, including a monstrous dunk while being fouled in the third quarter, resulting in a 3-point play and extending Mountain Pointe’s lead to 18.
“I saw my man drop down and I just went in,” Cash said. “I felt like I needed to be more aggressive as a senior, because if I’m not aggressive, I’m not helping my team out.”
Cash wasn’t the only headache for Chandler defensively. Mountain Pointe boasted a deep bench filled with guards ready to make an impact on the game.
“I’m not afraid to say it, we got the best guards in the state,” said Mountain Pointe head coach Duane Eason. “There’s maybe a better guard at somebody else’s school, but we have five guards we can play and they’re all solid.”
Junior guard Khalid Price, coming off a 26-point performance in the Pride’s 88-56 win over Skyline earlier in the week, scored 12 points and senior forward Ryan Pate added 15, all on 3-pointers.
Senior Jarick Caldwell finished with 14 points for the Wolves, and Adrian Chandler, who on Tuesday hit a 3-pointer with 1.5 seconds left to beat Hamilton and keep Chandler’s playoff hopes alive, added 10.
Chandler was missing two senior guards due to injuries and academic reasons.
“I could not be prouder of this group,” Rother said after the loss. “I’ve coached in the valley for about seven or eight years at different schools. And this group has been the most coachable and the most hardworking, and we wouldn’t have gotten this far had they not been like that.”
Chandler mounted a short-lived comeback, bringing the score to 25-17 with three minutes left in the second quarter after switching to a 1-3-1 zone and focusing on scoring in the paint on offense. After Mountain Pointe made adjustments, the Pride’s athleticism drove them to victory.
“They’re a scrappy, hardworking team and they got a couple of good ball handlers, so we needed to keep those guys out of the lane,” Eason said. “We talked about (it) all day -- not giving up the middle – forcing them to the baseline, so when we did that, we got control of (the game).”
Cash agreed with his coach and said he believes if Mountain Pointe keeps playing with the intensity they’ve displayed so far in the tournament, they have a shot at the state title.
“We have confidence in ourselves, we’ve had confidence in the way we’ve been playing lately.”
Cash said. “I feel like we’ve been the underdog all season, so we just have something to prove.”
Mountain Pointe will face No. 1-seeded Brophy College Prep in a 6A semifinal matchup at Wells Fargo Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 21.