Like all roller coasters, Mountain Pointe's play against Gilbert in its last regular-season game had a lot of ups and a lot of downs.
The Pride bottomed out against the Tigers, losing 62-49 on their own court during Friday's Senior Night.
Despite a strong comeback that brought the team within five to end the third quarter, Mountain Pointe (14-11, 11-7 in power rankings) lost all its momentum at the break and never recovered.
"When you dig yourself a hole, that's what happens," Pride coach Brian Fleming said. "We were right there. When we cut it to (five), I thought we had a real good chance."
While Gilbert (19-5, 15-3) was able to score at will throughout the first half, Mountain Pointe went into halftime with the game still in reach, down 10 points.
Halfway through the third quarter, a block by junior point guard Khari Holloway and a put-back at the other end by junior forward Tre Campbell gave the Pride something they hadn't had all game long: momentum.
The Tigers' shots had stopped falling and solid defense gave Mountain Pointe opportunities that it was able to capitalize on.
The fourth quarter brought Mountain Pointe's roller coaster back to the ground as Gilbert regrouped and rebounded, literally and figuratively.
Senior Erik Crawford killed the Pride on the glass, bringing down a team-high seven rebounds to go along with his 18 points, six assists, one steal and one block. As a team, the Tigers won the rebound contest 27-16, securing more than half of them in the second half.
For Gilbert, other standout players included seniors DeAndre Myles and Freddie Lash, who scored 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Holloway made his presence felt all game, providing the Pride with 11 points, two rebounds, three assists, a steal and two blocks.
"We've got to get better in (the) playoffs, in sectionals, and just let the chips fall," Holloway said. "We're a team and we go through adversity, but we all get back together."
Sophomore Jalen Brown scored nine points with two rebounds, an assist and a steal, while Campbell had eight points (all of which came in the second half), three rebounds and a steal.
"We've only lost seven and they're to really good programs," Fleming said. "Does that mean we can't go out and steal one? We just need to do a better job of execution and we need to be patient."
In looking ahead to next week's sectionals, Fleming was quick to point out that taking the ball into the post needs to occur more often.
"We talk about it all year, but for some reason we just won't throw it in there," Fleming said. "We've got some guys that can do stuff down there and we've got to give it to them. We've been very perimeter-oriented all year long."
Mountain Pointe had the fourth-hardest schedule this season out of the 62 teams in Division I, which leaves its coach optimistic.
"We've played a lot of tough teams, so that should prepare us for the tournament," he said.
Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.