Twenty-five lead changes and an outcome that wasn’t decided until the game’s final seconds.
Now that’s playoff basketball.
In the end, second-seeded Mesa Mountain View (25-4) defeated seventh-seeded Phoenix Mountain Pointe, 56-53 – in a game closer than even that three-point margin would indicate – to reach the Class 5A-I state semifinals next week.
“It was just a tough game to score,” said Mountain View head coach Gary Ernst. “Both teams were playing so hard, both teams were very athletic. So when you scored, you were tickled.”
Mountain Pointe (23-8) led 49-48 with 1:30 to play and the ball in its possession, with the chance to go up two possessions yet again as the clock ticked down. But Mountain View senior guard Tyson Lane got his hand on the ball near mid-court, knocking it to himself before finding a streaking Jordan McClelland for the easy bucket to give the Toros the lead – and enough juice for a mini-run during the last minute of play. Mountain View led by five at one point in the final minute, despite the Pride’s unwillingness to give in.
“Down the stretch, they executed a little bit better than we did,” said Mountain Pointe coach Brian Fleming. “That’s inexperience with this tournament too. It’s the first time being in this tournament.”
The game was literally back-and-forth for all four quarters– as the flurry of ties and lead changes indicates.
But it was the Toros, with 6-foot-5 sophomore forward Camryn Boone getting timely offensive rebounds in the first quarter to keep the Pride from opening a big early lead. And it was Boone and company doing the same late, scoring time and again on putbacks following their own misses.
“We just work really hard,” said Boone, who had 12 points for the Toros, adding that he and his teammates were not willing to let buckets go to waste. “None of them. We wanted every one.”
Mountain View’s Asaad Woods led all scorers with 16 points, while Jaron Sweeney added 14 and Lane eight. For the Pride, Tylor Wimbish and Steven Knox led the way with 14 a piece, with Israel Marshall chipping in eight and Davon Jones six. Michael Ramirez, the East Valley Region player of the year, was bottled up all night by the Toros, managing just one bucket in the first half and another early in the second before scoring his final points for the Pride as time expired and it was already too late. Ramirez was also whistled for his fourth foul midway through the third quarter.
Marshall said that considering where the Pride had been as recently as two years ago – when Mountain Pointe finished 3-28 – that proving they could play on a playoff stage was important.
“They kind of took advantage of things a little bit at the end,” Marshall said. “It was really a great game to play in.”
But not reaching the big arena – ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena – where Mountain View will play Tuesday night – still stings for the Pride.
“This has been one of the better years I’ve had in 15 years of a group of kids that came together and really liked each other, and really wanted to play for each other, and were very unselfish,” Fleming said of his team. “It’s a big stepping stone for the nine kids who are coming back.”
Ernst, who led the Toros to consecutive state championships in 2005, 2006, and 2007, said that he’s excited a new crop of players will get that chance.
“I just care so much for the kids that I’m really happy they get to experience it,” Ernst said. “I’ve been there enough times myself, that it really is about them and their experience.”
Score by quarters:
MP 15 14 12 22 63
MV 15 12 13 26 66
MP – Tylor Wimbish, 14; Steven Knox, 14; Israel Marshall, 9; Davon Jones, 8; Michael Ramirez, 6
MV – Asaad Woods, 16; Camryn Boone, 12; Jaron Sweeney, 11; Tyson Lane, 8