Dave Williams should have known better.
The Desert Vista boys basketball coach looked up at the scoreboard Tuesday with his team leading by seven points in the finals moments of the opening game at the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge.
He thought to himself, ‘That's a wrap.'
About 15 minutes later, he was in the locker room at Mesa Mountain View talking to his team about finishing. The Thunder ended up losing 64-63 to American Fork (Utah) as the game followed a familiar script.
After that game, Desert Vista was 10-4 overall and all four defeats came after having the lead late.
"In my mind we should be 14-0," said Williams, whose team won its second game at Mountain View on Wednesday. "We have to learn to finish games. In all four loses we did the same thing. (Against American Fork), I was like ‘That's a wrap' but we didn't close it out.
"It's on me, too. There were some things I could have done differently. Those were games that we should have won."
Rarely a team goes undefeated, but Williams sees the potential of the roster and expects a lot from the team.
"We have confidence in them," Williams said. "We have to keep growing and keep on getting better for a state run."
Williams is in his second year at the helm. The progression from one year to the next has been what he wanted. It is just clear there is more work to be done.
"I knew coming in discipline was going to be my Achilles' heel," said Williams, who led the Thunder to 21 wins last year before falling in the state quarterfinals. "Organization wise and just being a team we are much farther along (in year two). Chemistry, at times, and finishing up games is where we are struggling. They're kids and you just have to keep working on them."
Senior guard Jeff Lowery has seen a difference this year, but understands Williams' concern with the inability to close out some of those games.
"We're playing really well but we have to play an entire game," the Grand Canyon recruit said. "We know the system better and we are getting there. In the (defeats) we went away from the team concept at the end. If we keep working, we will get it down."
Before the VisitMesa.com tournament, the Thunder went 2-2 at the Mission Prep holiday tournament in California. The Thunder played well enough to finish fourth but again there were two defeats - nationally-ranked La Costa Canyon and Seattle Prep - that could have been wins.
Only one loss of the first four came against Arizona competition to keep the team confident as the finals two months approach.
"The California teams play at a different pace," said junior guard John Marshall, who led the team in assists (34) through seven games. "We struggled at times with it. We have to get better at the half-court game. Against Arizona teams we match up better and we know we can play with anyone."
Williams keeps pointing to the success of the football team as a building block. There will be some Desert Vista football players who sign scholarships, but the reason the Thunder won the state title was because the team played with heart more than anything else.
"Our football team was mentally tough and fought through things," Williams said. "They have three or four guys going (Division I) but the rest of (70-player roster) is all heart and chemistry. Their success was based on them coming together for one accord."
Something the basketball team has yet to find fully but Williams expects to do so in time.
"When we do we will finish those games," he said. "We always get a lead on people and most of the time we end up with the win. It is the games that we don't that I remember and want to build on because this team can be great."
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JskodaAFN.