Osasere Ighodaro’s high school basketball career came to a storybook ending Tuesday night, as the Desert Vista senior led the boys’ basketball team to a 75-55 win over Ahwatukee rival Mountain Pointe in the 6A championship game.
Ighodaro, a Marquette University basketball commit, totaled 32 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks in the title game. But most importantly, his efforts finally paid off in a championship that has long-eluded this Desert Vista roster.
“This is everyone’s dream, playing your rival in the championship your senior year, I’ve been dreaming of this moment. So I’m glad we got it,” he said.
His statistics do not even tell the full story of Ighodaro’s dominance. The Pride had to rely heavily on jump shots offensively, avoiding Ighodaro’s ability to block or otherwise-alter shots at the rim. And every time Mountain Pointe got close late in the game, Ighodaro seemed to get position in the post for an easy layup to swing back some momentum.
Coach Gino Crump had nothing but great things to say about his captain’s efforts in the championship game.
“He’s a genius on and off the basketball court. He plays the right way, he’s a leader. Every time they made a run, he settled the team down, talked to the players, to the younger guys. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Crump said.
Early in his high school career, Ighodaro was a “silent assassin,” as Crump put it. A talented, young, quiet kid, he let his play do most of the talking as an underclassman. The Thunder always had vocal leaders – Wesley Harris, Christian Anigwe, Alijah Gammons and Jaden Rollins on the 2017-18 Final Four team, and Isiah Wilson and Mason Harbertson last season – but as the lone senior on this version of the Thunder, Ighodaro had to grow into the mature, outspoken leader as well.
It was a tall order. Desert Vista played two sophomores in Andrew King and Desean Lecque in its starting lineup, and several other young players had contributing roles. It was not always easy to wrangle the young bulls in, but Ighodaro was pivotal in keeping them in line to challenge for, and eventually win, a title.
“We’d mess around a lot, and we’d have to run in practice, and act like kids. Because we’re basically kids, 15-16 year-olds, but there’s just one his age, and he would always give us directions. He’d tell us what we needed to do to get to this point, and we wouldn’t be here without him,” King said.
Nearly the entire lower bowl of ASU’s Desert Financial Arena was filled with the Ahwatukee community and basketball fans, and a long-standing culture of terrific Thunder basketball alumni and young players rode on Ighodaro’s shoulders against the team's fiercest rival on March 3.
He stood tall – about 6 feet 10 inches to be exact – and delivered in the biggest spot of his young career. He lifted the gold ball, much like he had lifted the team all season, and let out an unencumbered smile in celebration of a championship and a perfect ending to his high school basketball days.
“It’s for everyone,” Ighodaro said, “all my DV alumni who got so close in the past, to finally get it is everything.”