The much-anticipated match-up of top-seeded Brophy Prep and No. 2 Pinnacle High School in the 6A boys’ basketball state championship game could be just a week away.
Or it could be an event that may have to wait until next year.
That outcome is now in the hands of a couple of schools from Ahwatukee that are normally bitter rivals during the regular season, but will be working toward the same goal in tonight’s state semifinals.
Brophy’s opponent, Mountain Pointe High School, hasn’t had much of a challenge so far in the playoffs. But they’re a team that has size, great defensive intensity…and motivation fueled by a chance to bring the 26-year-old school in the small Ahwatukee community in east Phoenix its first state championship in boys’ basketball.
The Pride has built up an impressive 25-3 record and needs just two more wins to earn a place in the school’s history books.
They haven’t really been tested so far in the playoffs, beating 12th-seeded Skyline High, 88-56, and No. 13 Chandler High, 76-48, but that high-octane scoring is indicative of what their offense can do.
Despite playing without a dominating scorer, the Pride, which came into the playoffs ranked No. 7 in the azcentral sports Super 10, has notched seven wins of 80 or more points and have proven they can handle pressure. They won both overtime games this season.
Size has been their counterbalance to a big scorer. That starts with 6’4″ guard Amarion Cash and post players that include 6’9″ Jalen Graham, 6’7″ DeAndre Henry, 6’6″ Jonah LaBranche, and 6’5″ Ryan Pate. Those who average double figures include Cash (14.3 ppg), junior guard Khalid Price (13.5), and Graham (11.4).
Mountain Pointe was ranked No. 3 in the state coming into the season and lost just once in the first 21 games on the schedule. Ironically, that single loss was to Brophy in late November. Brophy beat them by just one point.
Coming up the other side of the bracket, Mountain Pointe’s cross-town rival Desert Vista High School also had little trouble getting to the semis to take on Pinnacle, dispatching 14th-seeded Cesar Chavez High School, 76-61, and beating No. 6 Red Mountain High by 13 points.
Desert Vista (25-4) hasn’t put up the kind of scoring performances Mountain Pointe has enjoyed, but the Thunder are athletic and get much of their scoring in the paint. That’s where 6’8″ center Christian Anigwe roams. The senior not only provides the intimidation factor on defense, but is averaging 11 points and nearly six rebounds a game.
Anigwe gets a lot of help from 6’6″ senior Wesley Harris, who shares the team scoring honors with junior guard Tyrek Chambers. They’re each averaging 17 points a game, so the trio of upperclassmen contribute 45 points a night.
Add to that a very efficient full-court press on defense and Desert Vista becomes a formidable foe.
The Thunder, who were the No. 4 team in the Super 10, have lost just once in the last 18 games, a 13-point loss to Hamilton High on Jan. 19. The fourth-seeded Hamilton was stunned by No. 13 Chandler in the opening round.
Which should serve as a reminder to both Ahwatukee schools that big upsets are not uncommon when the state tourney begins.
But consider this:
Should Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista both pull off wins tonight, it would turn the state title game into a special version of the Tukee Bowl, the annual football clash between the schools. And that could turn out to be an even better game than pitting the top two seeds against each other.
Earlier in the season, the teams split two games, with Desert Vista beating Mountain Pointe by three points and Mountain Pointe winning the other game by two points — in overtime.
Either one of those would make a great championship game.