Holiday hoops tourneys helped teams prepare for 2022 schedule

While families in Arizona were busy preparing for the holidays, many high school basketball teams were preparing for tournament play.

Coaches use the annual break from classes to give their teams some extra court time in preparation for the remainder of the schedule when the new year begins.  For hoops fans, it provides some welcome sports action and helps to sort out the contenders from the pretenders at this point in the season.

The Perry High School boys team offered both.  The Pumas showed they are legitimate contenders in 6A, the state’s top conference, by winning the annual Visit Mesa Basketball Challenge, a four-day tournament held at Mountain View High School.

And they gave those fans who showed up two days before Christmas all the drama and excitement they were hoping for — and more.  The Pumas met Broken Arrow HS in the championship game and took the Oklahoma team to overtime before winning on a buzzer-beater shot that sealed the 64-63 victory.

Perry, which went 4-0 in the tourney, was trailing by a point when it got the ball with 18 seconds to go in the overtime and left it to Cody Williams to finish things off.  Williams took his defender into the lane and launched a short runner just in time to beat the final buzzer.

A couple of tournaments held after Christmas gave the Gilbert High School boys and the Flowing Well HS girls a chance to make their case for a state title run.

The girls took the stage first in the Dec. 29 Holiday Shootout at Flowing Wells, where the championship game lacked some of the drama of the McClintock tourney, but there was still plenty of scoring to satisfy fans as Flowing Wells shot its way to a 66-57 victory over Mesa’s Westwood High.

Westwood kept the game interesting down to the final quarter, digging itself out of a 26-15 hole early in the game and coming back to within five points when Nyese Jones hit a pressure shot with 1:17 left to play to make it 59-54.  But the Caballeros went on a 7-3 run to close out the win.

Jones finished with 17 points and teammate Angelina Montoya chipped in  another 17 in the losing effort.  Flowing Wells was led by Navine Mallon who scored a game-high 25 points, followed by Leamsi Acuna‘s 15 points.

Flowing Wells, 16-1 and ranked fifth in the MaxPreps computer rankings, finished last season as runner-up in 5A and has to be considered a favorite to win it all this year.

The boys followed up the Holiday Shootout by playing in the Dec. 30 McClintock Shootout at McClintock HS in Tempe.  Host McClintock settled for fifth place while Gilbert HS and Hamilton HS played for the tourney title.

Hamilton found itself playing catch-up almost the entire game, enjoying a very short-lived lead of 38-37 in the final frame, as the contest devolved into a free-throw contest in the final minute.  Down 41-39 with less than a minute to play, the Huskies were forced to foul to try to get the lead back.

But Nikko Pentelute spoiled that plan by sinking all six of his free throws during the final 45 seconds to secure the 48-42 Gilbert victory.  He also contributed a game-high 21 points, fueled by dropping in five three-pointers.  That effort earned him the tourney’s Most Valuable Player award.

Hamilton’s scoring was led by Quincy Adams, who finished the title game with 16 points.  Daimon Denning followed closely behind with 15 points.

With their tournament victories, Gilbert is now 15-2 on the season and Hamilton has a 14-3 overall mark.

Both are expected to be in the hunt for the 6A state title as regular-season play resumes.