Monday night’s matchup against rival Desert Vista was met with a brief sigh of relief from Mountain Pointe boys basketball coach Kaimarr Price.
A Mountain Pointe alum, Price had never personally beat his Ahwatukee rival as a player for the Pride, assistant coach or head coach. But Monday night, after COVID-19 postponed the initial meeting between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, Price and his team exited the gym with a 74-56 win over the Thunder as part of Hoophall West.
“When I was on freshman we lost, JV we lost, varsity we lost. As an assistant we lost and all three times last year as head coach we lost,” Price said. “It’s kind of a monkey off our backs and it’s a step in the right direction for this program.”
The matchup between the rivals was the first meeting between the two since Desert Vista’s win over Mountain Pointe in the 6A title game a year ago. It’s a loss that remained in the minds of Price and his players throughout the offseason, when many dubbed the new year as a “revenge tour” or sorts.
As was the case with all three meetings last season, the two remained locked into a close battle through the first two-and-a-half quarters of play before Mountain Pointe began to pull away behind sophomore guard Tru Washington and senior forward Zereoue Williams.
Washington was forced to sit most of the fourth quarter with Mountain Pointe already at a double-digit advantage due to four personal fouls. But his absence, along with a smaller lineup by Desert Vista, allowed Williams to take over.
“I noticed they went a little bit smaller and knew I had to post up and do what my team needed me to do,” said Williams, who finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. “This is the team that beat us. I knew I had to step up.”
Washington came back to the court near the midway point of the fourth quarter and immediately drew two fouls on Desert Vista. Both resulted in trips to the free throw line with the Thunder in the bonus.
The 6-foot-4 guard helped increase Mountain Pointe’s lead as time ticked off the clock. Washington, who transferred from Cesar Chavez, finished with a team-high 27 points and 11 rebounds against Desert Vista. It was the sixth time this season he scored more than 20 points in a game.
“I knew I had to get the ball and go, just get to the hole and get back on defense,” said Washington, who was named Mountain Pointe’s MVP. “We’re back on top.”
Desert Vista struggled to break Mountain Pointe’s full court press early on, but a combination of the Pride’s cold start allowed the Thunder to stay within striking distance.
Sophomore guard Brandon Trilli found a shooting rhythm early on and scored 11 of Desert Vista’s 12 first-quarter points. He finished with 20 points overall and 9 rebounds.
Fellow guard Andrew King, who transferred from Desert Vista to Phoenix Prep before returning before the start of the season, was named Hoophall West MVP for the Thunder after scoring 19 points. One of the top shooters in the state, King played nearly every minute of the game for Desert Vista, only exiting to tighten his shoes after a slip and in the waning seconds of the contest.
The loss for Desert Vista puts the Thunder at 4-4 overall, with matchups against Desert Ridge (Wednesday), Corona del Sol (Thursday) and Queen Creek (Friday) the rest of the week. The win for Mountain Pointe improves the Pride’s record to 9-3 overall and comes after a tough week in which they lost two of three total contests.
“It feels like we are starting to find our stride a little more,” Williams said. “Every day we just have to keep getting better. Hopefully the finished product will come around come championship time.”