After a 20 point win at Highland, nobody thought Friday night’s game was going to be much of a contest; especially with the Pride coming off a tough loss Tuesday night against rival Desert Vista. However, somebody forgot to tell Highland, and they showed up with plans of upset, not victim number one of the next Mountain Pointe win streak. After 31 minutes and 55 seconds of dominance by Highland, MP junior point guard, Khalid Price went to the free throw line and sank the winning free throws for the Pride. A half court shot, as time expired, fell short; giving MP the 69-68 win. Coach Eason may have been the only person not from Highlands that wasn’t surprised by their performance. “After a loss like we took Tuesday night, you gotta expect the next opponent to try and take advantage while you’re picking up the pieces, ” says Eason. “Highland plays hard, and they were not going to pass on a chance to knock us.”
Great teams find a way to win games, and as has been the case all year, MP found a away to win. “We can’t go into the state tournament playing like this, because you’re not going to beat great teams; you won’t be beat average teams that are hungry.” Eason added. “Tonight they beat us in all the areas that you measure a great team by; rebounding, 50/50 balls, drawing fouls, deflections…you know, the hustle stats.”
Offensively the Pride did a good job getting 3 players in double-figures, Price was the biggest factor, as he played his most efficient game of the season, according to Coach Eason. “The kid had 17 points on just 5 field goal attempts, grabbed a few rebounds had 4 assists, 1 steal and a couple deflections. Those are the kind of across the board numbers you look for in your point guard.” Price wasn’t alone as Ryan Pate lead all scorers with 18 points, including 4 threes (tied with Price). Jalen Graham had another double-double and played an all-around solid game with 12 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 4 steals and 3 blocks.
Defensively things were not as smooth. The “55” Press, which is Coach Eason’s staple on defense, looked slow and ineffective at times. “Any time you’re asking guys to make tough plays on defense, that have not been defensive minded, you go through peaks and valleys. Right now we’re in the valley, and it’s my job as the coach to get us to the peak; heading into the state tournament.” Coach Eason explained. “Arizona is very vanilla, and the teams with the most talent when because most schools here don’t look to create offense with their defense. In my career, relying on the team, as opposed to individual players always gives us a greater chance to win. You can stop players, but it’s hard to stop an entire team. Our problem right now is that we’re not playing good team defense; not full court or half court, so our offense is struggling to be consistent, because the turnovers and misses by our opponents are not as frequent. Not to mention, even when we force a miss, we’re not securing the defensive rebounds.”
The Pride have 3 games left in the season, and currently sit at #3 in the 6A power points rankings. Next up is Desert Ridge, Tuesday night at Mountain Pointe. Tip off is at 7pm; come out and support the boys.