MLK Classic returns, 12 teams vie in day-long hoops event

When a sports event gets to the point that the title takes 12 words to complete, it’s probably time for a nickname.

Monday’s high school basketball showcase at Tempe High School, honoring the memory of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., could be called The Phoenix because it just rose from the ashes

The Tempe Union High School District MLK Dream Classic Powered by Under Armour (phew!), the official name now for the event, is the revival of a hoops tournament that began in 2003 and lasted 13 years, stretched from Phoenix to Tucson at one time, and played in top-tier venues like ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena and Grand Canyon University Arena.

But the event lost its momentum as costs to stage the event and the work involved continued to increase. The 2015 MLK Classic featured 10 boys’ and 10 girls’ teams playing at Wells Fargo, but the 2016 event featured just two boys’ teams, Shadow Mountain HS and Corona del Sol HS, and was played in Shadow Mountain’s gym. The next year, organizers decided it was time to put the popular event on the shelf.

Monday marked its return. Its abbreviated title: The MLK Dream Classic.

And the Corona boys’ team was there again.

Corona del Sol lost that game to Shadow Mountain back in 2016, and wasn’t able to fare much better in its return, losing Monday to Cesar Chavez HS, 73-67, despite a game-high 24-point performance by Eric Blackwell.

There were three other boys’ games and two on the girls’ side. But the marque boys’ games featured Hamilton High, the No. 1 team in the power rankings, and No. 2 Desert Vista HS

Hamilton powered to a 65-57 win over Mountain Pointe HS, as Jamar Brown led the scoring for the Huskies with 16 points, 14 in the second half, and Jason Kimbrough was high scorer for Mountain Pointe with 15.

Desert Vista HS rolled to a 83-53 rout of Red Mountain HS, with Desean Lecque and Osasere Ighodaro combining for 37 points. Lecque shared game scoring honors with Red Mountain’s Kyle Waters; each finished with 19 points.

McClintock High won the fourth boys’ contest, beating Tempe HS, 64-55. Jaylen Wesley, a McClintock sophomore, had a game-high 21 points.

In the girls’ games…

Pinnacle HS, undefeated in power-ranking games, pulled out a 58-54 victory over Mountain Pointe HS. Pinnacle’s 6’6″ post, Kennedy Basham, not only scored 27 points, but also was the steady hand at the free-throw line down the stretch (8 points in fourth quarter) to maintain the margin of victory. She also contributed eight rebounds and five blocks. Another sophomore, Kishyah Anderson, led the scoring for The Pride with 17 points.

In the other game, the first of the day,Saguaro HS jumped out to a huge 29-6 lead at the end of the first quarter and went on to a lopsided 83-23 rout of Marcos de Niza HS. A couple of seniors led the way for Saguaro, with Amayah Kirkman contributing 23 points and Tranety Perkins adding 20.