Chaparral wins, Desert Mountain falls at Talking Stick Resort Arena

Desert Mountain forward Brandon Kron (44) contests a jumper from Westview’s Cedric Bridges during the Wolves’ 55-54 loss to the Knights. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Talking Stick Resort Arena hosted the Hoopin’ It Up At The Arena event and two Scottsdale high schools showcased their basketball talents on the Phoenix Suns’ home court.

Both Chaparral and Desert Mountain high schools played games Saturday, Jan. 6 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena. Hoopin’ It Up At The Arena takes place over three days this season with the first being Saturday, Dec. 11 and the last being Saturday, Jan. 13.

Chaparral (7–9) defeated Willow Canyon High School (10–8) 68–59 while Westview High School (11–6) downed Desert Mountain (10–7) 55–54. These two games were part of a lineup of seven games of both boys and girls high school basketball teams from across the Valley.

Chaparral 68, Willow Canyon 59

The Firebirds ended an eight-game losing streak thanks to a hot start to their victory over Willow Canyon.

Chaparral got out to a 13–0 advantage to start the game and maintained the lead for the rest of the game. Willow Canyon got as close as four points in the third quarter but never closed the game.

Chaparral guard Blaise Threatt passes the ball during the Firebirds’ 68-59 win over Willow Canyon. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Chaparral Head Coach Dan Peterson said the Firebirds came into the game with the goal to make three defensive stops and see where that took them.

“I think what we did was focus more on what we were going to do defensively and on rebounding instead of what we were going to do offensively,” he said after the game. “I think mentally, they were more prepared coming in and then the offense came a little bit easier.”

On the other side, Willow Canyon Head Coach Joseph Colletti said that start was “by far the slowest start of the season.”

Despite the win, Chaparral was far from perfect. Both teams combined for 44 fouls with Chaparral committing 26 of those penalties.

Along with the fouls, Coach Peterson said his team turned the ball over too many teams, which led to Willow Canyon working its way back into the game.

“We’re still making careless mistakes, young mistakes,” Coach Peterson said. “If we could’ve taken care of that ball, I think we would’ve extended that lead.”

The Firebirds maintained a healthy lead until the Wildcats went on a 12–2 run to slice Chaparral’s lead to just four points late in the third.

Willow Canyon hung close in the fourth but Chaparral slowly built its lead back up. Coach Colletti said despite the loss, he thought his team was resilient but the opening Chaparral push proved too much for the Wildcats.

“I thought the effort in the second half was outstanding,” he said after the game. “If not for free throws and honestly, one or two possessions at the end of the game, I think we’re right there.”

Chaparral guard Xavier Dusell led all scorers with 16 points while fellow guard Alem Huseinovic dropped in 12 for the Firebirds. At the other end, Willow Canyon guard John Mendoza notched 15 points while guard Kevin Kilgore aided with 11.

Both teams now head into region play as the Firebirds will play at Notre Dame Preparatory Tuesday, Jan. 9. Coach Peterson said Chaparral had a tough stretch of games against talented teams in December, including Willow Canyon, but he hopes it will prepare his team for region play.

“I think this win is going to help jump start us and get us on a good track and hopefully, prepare us for playoffs,” he said.

Chaparral guard Josef Davis dribbles past Willow Canyon guard Isaiah Ramirez (10) during the Firebirds’ 68-59 win over the Wildcats. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Westview 55, Desert Mountain 54

From the get-go, both teams played close but in the end, a layup from Westview’s leading scorer in the waning seconds of the game decided the outcome.

Westview forward Christian Diaz fought through Desert Mountain defenders to notch two of his 25 points with about three seconds to play to seal the win for the Knights.

Westview Head Coach Brendan McEvoy said his team’s size advantage helped the Knights win the game, especially on the last play of the game where senior Cedric Bridges kicked out the offensive rebound to Diaz.

Desert Mountain guard Joey McNeely bring the ball up court against Westview guard Isaiah King (2) during the Wolves’ 55-54 loss to the Knights. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

“I knew this was going to be one of those games that was going to be won in the dirt,” he said following the game. “I always worry when that battle is against a team like Desert Mountain. They play so aggressively and tough. That’s one thing they are, they’re tough and scrappy.”

The Knights had the size advantage on the Wolves but Desert Mountain Head Coach Mark Schumaker found a way to work around that difference. He said this included sound offensive execution and being aggressive in rebounding.

Early in the game, 12 of Desert Mountain’s first 14 points were off of 3-point shots. Still, the Wolves found themselves trailing by three after the first quarter.

The second quarter belonged to the Wolves as guard Brady Giordano scored eight of his team-high 12 points during this period. Defensively, Desert Mountain held Westview to just six, taking a 30–26 lead at the break.

Coach Schumaker said he thought his team worked well in transition and mixed up its defense. Coach McEvoy said when the Wolves took the lead, they switched to a zone defense, which helped against Westview’s side advantage.

Desert Mountain maintained its lead throughout the third quarter but Westview regained the lead at the start of a back-and-forth final quarter.

The Knights’ offense centered around three players as Diaz, junior D’Maurian Williams (19 points) and Bridges (11) scored all of their points.

For the Wolves, guard Joey McNeeley and forward Brandon Kron each scored 11 to help Giordano on offense.

Desert Mountain now looks to the start of region play with a game at Pinnacle High School Tuesday, Jan. 9. Coach Schumaker said after this loss, he will look to his team to play tougher and be better at not allowing other teams to make plays to end the game.

“We’ve got a tough region,” he said after the game. “I’m looking forward to it and it’ll be good test for our guys.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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