PHOENIX – Oh, that sneaky Kyle Pitman.
Like most children who have access to the professional sports world, the Desert Vista senior took advantage of his surroundings on trips to US Airways Centers over the years – his father, Jim, is the executive director of finance for the Suns –and found his way on to the court.
Pitman estimates he has had 10 to 15 shooting sessions on the floor with the purple accents over the years so let’s settle on a baker’s dozen because that’s how many points Pitman poured in during the decisive third quarter in a must-have 66-64 win over rival Mountain Pointe.
“I feel comfortable here,” Pitman said, who finished with a team-high 22 points. “It’s hard the first time playing here because of depth perception. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s muscle memory. You’ve got to let it fly. I made the first (of three 3-pointers on three possessions) and got on a roll. When you are hot keep shooting and my team showed confidence in me.”
The win closed out the Thunder’s regular season at 14-12 overall and 11-7 in power rankings. They entered the game 11th in their section and 24th overall
The win could be enough to secure a spot in the Division I, Section III tournament, especially if No. 8 Deer Valley lost, and should move the Thunder up a tad in the overall rankings.
All Desert Vista coach Dave Williams knows is the team got a win it had to have otherwise the year would have been over.
“I told the kids we had a tough year so go out and play like a man for once,” Williams said. “Get it done and play for yourself. We gave ourselves a chance. I was really excited for them because this is the best team I’ve had at DV. Win, lose or draw we love these guys.”
It didn’t come without fret even though Desert Vista led by 14 – 59-45 with 4 minutes remaining – only to see No. 21 Mountain Pointe (12-11, 9-8) close within 59-53 with 2:43 remaining.
The Pride kept cutting into the deficit and had an open 3-point look on the game’s final play – a 3-pointer by Jalen Brown from the left wing that was on line but hit the front rim – but the third quarter burst (19-8) by Desert Vista was just too much to overcome.
“These are kids and they are going to make mistakes,” Mountain Pointe coach Aaron Windler said. “We played hard. I am proud of the way we didn’t quit when we could have. It is one of those games we had to have and we didn’t have it.”
While Pitman, who had 15 points in the first meeting against the Pride, finished with 22 points, including 5 of 8 shooting from behind the 3-point arc, and seven rebounds, did most the damage early, freshman Brandon Clarke made two clutch free throws and Greg Carter (17 points and 8 assists) got a key rebound and a steal down the stretch.
Pitman said the Thunder thrived on the fact that so much was at stake, especially the seniors who could have been playing their final game, against their rival in a special environment.
“It could have been our last game and it was a rivalry game,” he said. “It was most important game in my career and I was glad to get the win.”
The Pride might have a secured a spot in the sectional tournament with a win as it was No. 9 in Section III, but now might need a win at Gilbert on Friday to make the postseason at all.
Mountain Pointe, which gave up a home game to play in downtown Phoenix, was led by Khari Holloway’s 30 points, while Tre Campbell had 12 and Chris Davis added 11.
Windler knows the Pride left some opportunities slide and should they find themselves turning in their uniforms come Monday, they’ll be able to pinpoint some key moments in the lost to the Thunder as one of the reasons.
“We had eight turnovers in the first half, missed five throws and didn’t get back in transition,” he said. “We should have been up 10 or 12 (instead of 31-28) and we weren’t. It’s a different ballgame.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.