The Westwind Prep basketball team was looking for a challenge and figured the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge was it.
Hey, it was right there in the tournament’s name.
Turned out, the high-scoring and previously undefeated Phoenix charter school was right. The term ‘undefeated’ no longer applies.
The Warriors joined with some of the best high school teams in the state, and four more from outside Arizona, to test their programs in what has grown to be one of the best high school basketball tournaments in the country.
The field of local entries this year included Mountain View HS in Mesa, currently ranked No. 1 in 5A-I, and two Top 5 teams in 5A-II: No. 2 Chaparral HS and No. 5 Horizon HS, both in Scottsdale.
Amphitheater HS in Tucson, the No. 1 team in 4A-II, was also there. And Westwind Prep, the No. 1 team in 2A rounded out the top-tier programs.
Westwind had been blowing the doors off its local opponents this season, often scoring 100 points or more as it ran up 11 straight victories. The average margin of victory was almost 60 points.
But it was a different story last week when the Warriors jumped in the mix with the big dogs, entering the event for the first time.
Archbishop Moeller High School from Cincinnati, the 2003 and 2007 state champion and also a first-time entrant, was the only team to go 4-0 for the event. Westwind finished 3-0, as did Amphitheater HS and Mountain View HS.
But Westwind had to scramble for every win.
The Warriors’ largest margin of victory was eight points, with an 88-80 win over Mountain Pointe HS in Phoenix and a 67-59 victory over Serra HS from California. They squeeked past Horizon HS, 84-83, and lost their final game in a humbling 73-57 loss to Lutheran HS in Orange, Calif.
In the Horizon game, Collin Woods tallied 23 points and Jordan Dunatov added 18 for the Huskies, and Westwind was led by Demarqiuse Johnson‘s 27 points and a 24-point effort from Arturs Bremers.
The loss to Lutheran, which was beaten by Amphitheater HS in a 87-85 thriller in the opening game, was a result of cold shooting and not enough rebounding effort.
Lutheran took a 35-24 halftime lead and was never challenged after that, as Westwind managed to hit just five of the 25 three-point shots it took and was 29 percent from the field. Lutheran also held a 56-46 edge on the boards.
The Warriors’ leading scorer was Juwan Moody, who put up just 13 points.
Northern Arizona University had to be happy with what they saw in the game. James Douglas, Lutheran’s senior point guard who has signed to play for the Lumberjacks next year, had 22 points and five assists.
St. Mary’s HS in Phoenix provided one of the more exciting games of the event, taking Sunnyslope HS to two overtimes before putting away the 85-78 win on the second day.
Bryan Rhymes scored 26 points for the Knights, and teammate Derrick Bowers added 16. Sunnyslope was paced by Chris Rodriguez’s 19 points and Steven Pischiotta‘s 18.
That same day saw two other overtime games, with Red Mountain HS in Mesa defeating Buena HS in Sierra Vista, 80-73, and Mountain Pointe HS using the overtime to beat Horizon HS, 85-81.
But the best was saved for last this year, as Mountain View HS and Moeller HS came up through the four-day event undefeated going into the final game and battled to a 36-35 Moeller win.
Four Arizona players were named to the events’ All-Tournament Team: Domineik Banks (Amphitheater), Zeke Chapman (Chaparral), Jerome Garrison (Mountain Pointe), Demarquise Johnson (Westwind), Mark Mazzucco (Mountain View), Malcom McKinney (Dobson), and Collin Woods (Horizon).
(Photo: VMBC/Robert Sirrine)