Arizona celebrated Martin Luther King Day up and down the I-10 corridor, with some great high school basketball.
Arizona State hosted an MLB Classic in Tempe and Arizona’s McKale Center in Tucson opened its doors for the fifth year to a similar tournament in honor of the civil rights leader. Both sites offered a full slate of 10 boys and girls teams.
The marquee match-up at Wells Fargo Arena was between a couple of the top teams in 5A, but also featured Arizona State’s prized recruit, Jahii Carson – who lived up to expectations by scoring 31 points to lead Mesa High School to a 67-60 win over cross-town rival, Mountain View High School.
Mountain View, the state’s top-ranked team, led 34-28 at the half, but couldn’t deal effectively enough with the Jackrabbits’ pressing defense that created 21 Toros turnovers in the second half.
Third-ranked Mesa was on a roll, coming off four straight wins, and was able to take the lead at 50-47 and never again relinquish it. Desmond Medder added 18 points to go with Carson’s big night, while Jaren Sweeney was top scorer for Mountain View with 19.
In the other boys games…
Chaparral HS in Scottsdale handed Phoenix St. Mary’s HS its eighth straight loss, as Zeke Chapman canned four free throws in the final 30 seconds to seal a 70-65 victory for the Firebirds. Chapman finished with 20 points, but Joe Boyd was high man for Chaparral with 23 points.
The Firebirds, who picked up 21 points on 32 trips to the free-throw line, upped their 5A Desert Valley Region mark to 2-0.
And Mountain Pointe HS in Phoenix walked away with a 74-60 win over Skyline HS of Mesa. The Mountain Pointe offense was fueled by 24 points from Tylor Wimbish and another 20 from teammate Jerome Garrison.
On the girls side…
Highland HS in Gilbert and Mountain View HS provided the day’s drama, as Mountain View won an overtime thriller, 54-52, when the Toros’ guard, Arnicia Hawkins, drained two free throws with six ticks left on the clock.
Both teams entered the tourney with four-game win streaks, but Highland couldn’t hold the early double-digit lead it had built. Nor could they contain the ASU-bound Hawkins, who lead all scorers with 29 points and five rebounds.
Jordan Jensen added 12 points to go with Hawkins’ effort, while Jordan Hagen and Alyssa Heman each added 13 points for Highland.
The other girls’ game was dominated by 6’2″ Je Zhe Newton, the senior forward for Chandler HS who lead the way to a 55-45 victory over rival Hamilton HS, as both teams began their 5A Fiesta Region schedules.
Newton finished with 21 points and 18 rebounds, but Hamilton’s 20 percent shooting was a major contributor to the loss. Chandler also only managed a 36 percent effort in a game that included no scoring from behind the three-point arc. The Huskies got 11 points each from Chelcee Pullam and Lauren Evans.
Down in Tucson…
There were only two games, one on the boys side and the other a girls game, that could be considered worth sitting in the bleachers for a couple of hours.
The Sahuaro HS (Tucson) boys’ team escaped with a 58-55 win over Flowing Wells HS (Tucson), as the game was 27-24 at the half and close throughout. The Cougars didn’t wrap it up until a free throw by Dionte Simmons dropped through the net with 14 seconds left on the clock.
Seniors led the way for both teams, as Eric Varela scored 20 points for Flowing Wells and Dior Ford answered with 18 for Sahuaro.
The girls provided some excitement when Canyon del Oro HS (Oro Valley) pulled out a 44-42 win over Sabino HS (Tucson) in a game that wasn’t decided until Allie Tapia hit two free throws with under 10 seconds left.
Sabino led 27-20 at the half, but hit a dry spell in the third quarter, when they put just two points on the board and CDO took over the lead with just three minutes left to play.
Anna Heaton was the game’s high scorer, contributing 17 points to Sabino’s losing effort, and Lizzy Miller added 11 more. Sam Kilbourn led the way for CDO with 12 points.
In the three other games at McKale, Amphitheater HS (boys) rolled over Palo Verde HS, 82-60; Salpointe Catholic HS (boys) beat Rincon HS, 77-46, behind a 33-point performance by Colby Weaver; and Desert Christian HS (girls) beat Northwest Christian HS, 47-24.