Another showcase of prep hoops wraps at MLK Classic

Pinnacle High School had a rare opportunity over the weekend, as both the boys and girls basketball teams were playing the showcase games at this year’s Martin Luther King Classic.

Both teams faced steep hills to climb since the No. 10-ranked boys were taking on No. 3 Desert Mountain High School, which was planning to extend its 12-game winning streak, and the girls were facing off against two-time defending state champion, St. Mary’s High School.

The girls’ challenge turned out to be the more difficult.

Pinnacle won the boys’ game, coming from behind to upset the Wolves, 67-62, but the girls couldn’t stay with the Knights, who haven’t lost to an Arizona opponent in two years and were the No. 1 ranked team in the nation last year.  St. Mary’s extended this year’s record to 18-1 (the loss was to Mater Dei High in California) with a 63-43 victory over the one team most observers expected to be able to give the Knights a game.

To be fair, the game was closer than the final score indicates – at least through three quarters.  St. Mary’s led by just nine points at the half, despite being able to capitalize on 17 Pinnacle turnovers, and were just four up, at 30-26, minutes after the second half got underway.

A 13-4 run by the Knights to close out the third quarter put Pinnacle back on its heels, but the Pioneers recovered to close the gap to 52-43 before the Knights stepped on the gas to close out the win.

Courtney Ekmark, the junior who has already committed to play for the University of Connecticut, led the way for St. Mary’s with 17 points, followed by Chloe Johnson with 15, and Dominique Williams with 12.

But it was Chantel Osahor, the University of Washinton-commit, who did a little bit of everything to secure the win.  The senior post finished the game with 12 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists, four steals, and a couple of blocks.

Sydney Wiese led Pinnacle scorers with 14 points.

In the boys’ game, the Pioneers had to can seven of eight free throws down the stretch to hold on to their slim lead and secure the win.  Pinnacle used the free throw to great advantage, picking up 19 points at the line.

But Desert Mountain’s loss could also be attributed in part to 19 turnovers and inconsistent scoring, except from its point guard, Roland Rhymes, who contributed a game-high 28 points.

Trey Ingram led Pinnacle with 25 points, while Dorian Pickens added 17 points and four assists.

These two games were part of the five-game package organizers put on the floor at Arizona State‘s Wells Fargo Arena.  These are generally considered the main events of the day, while a couple of games were also played at Grand Canyon University in west Phoenix, and seven more in Tucson at McKale Center on the University of Arizona campus.

This is the 10th year for the tournament, which began with four girls teams playing at ASU and expanded from there to include boys teams.  The Tucson games were added in 2007 and GCU began hosting games for teams on the west side of Phoenix two years ago.

The slate of ‘showcase’ games at ASU didn’t live up to their billing last year, as the average margin of victory for the six boys and girls games was 15 points.  Even the much-heralded match-up between St. Mary’s, the No. 1 team in the country, and No. 5 Los Angeles Windward didn’t turn out the way organizers had hoped.  St. Mary’s ran away with that game, 62-48.

But this year offered fans more exciting basketball overall as the day stretched from a noon start to the final game at 7 p.m.

In the other games at ASU, the Desert Vista High School girls beat Mountain View High, 67-51; the Dobson High School boys squeezed out a 53-51 victory over Highland High; and Paradise Valley High School took an early lead in its Division II game with Coconino High and turned it into a 67-59 win.