Desert Mountain boys basketball suffers narrow playoff loss in opening round

Desert Mountain guard Brady Giordano drives the lane while looking for an open teammate during the Wolves’ 70-68 loss to Red Mountain in the opening round of the 6A state playoffs. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

In a way, the Desert Mountain High School boys basketball team’s opening round loss reflected a lot of what the Wolves have gone through this season.

The No. 11 Wolves fell 70–68 to No. 6 Red Mountain High School as part of the 6A state playoffs in east Mesa Tuesday, Feb. 13. Desert Mountain never led during the game, was out-sized and still kept pushing until the final whistle.

Four Desert Mountain players scored in double digits, but the Wolves had no answer for Red Mountain’s six-foot-six senior Timmy Allen, who finished with a game-high 30 points. Allen was one of nine players who stand taller than six feet on Red Mountain’s roster.

Even with the size advantage, Red Mountain struggled to keep its larger leads. Multiple times, Desert Mountain would whittle its deficit to two or four points, but never broke through.

“That’s just how we’ve been doing it all year, we’ve been fighting,” Desert Mountain Head Coach Mark Schumaker said after the game.

Desert Mountain forward Hayden Peters passes the ball to guard Joey McNeely (25) during the Wolves’ 70-68 loss to Red Mountain in the opening round of the 6A state playoffs. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Desert Mountain guard Brady Giordano, who scored a team-high 15 points, said all year the Wolves were going into games feeling like the underdogs because of their size compared to other teams.

“A lot of guys on our team, we have a chip on our shoulders not being the biggest team, but we come out, try to play hard every game to match what the other team has,” he said after the game.

This game was no different as Giordano said the Wolves used that underdog mentality to fuel its pushes at various points of the game.

One such push came early in the game where Red Mountain went out to a 10–2 lead. The Wolves chipped the deficit down to 23–21 late in the second quarter before Allen outscored the Wolves 7–4 to give Red Mountain a 31–25 lead at the half.

Desert Mountain pushed again with an 8–2 run to make it 43–41 midway through the third quarter.

Red Mountain ballooned its lead up to as big as nine points at times during the fourth quarter. That didn’t stop the Wolves from fighting back and in the last stretch of the game, they outscored Red Mountain 8–3 but time ran out on the drive.

Red Mountain Head Coach Chris Lemon said that final stretch of the game showed that Desert Mountain had the caliber to be a top-10 team in the state if it weren’t for a couple of late losses.

“They’re real tough, man, well-coached and we knew it was going to be a grinder and that’s exactly what it was,” he said after the game.

Coach Schumaker said being this late in the season is what made finding those comeback drives work so well.

“We just stuck together,” he said. “That’s all we do. We’re just going to keep grinding together and doing the best we can. They did a great job tonight and I’m really proud of them.”

With the loss, Coach Schumaker wrapped up his first season at Desert Mountain with one of the team’s better records over the past five years. The Wolves finished with a 16–13 overall record and a return to the playoffs after missing out last year.

Coach Schumaker said what stuck out to him was the way the team fought through the adversity of being small, losing on buzzer-beaters late in the season and how that fight carried over into this loss.

“I couldn’t ask for a better group my first year at Desert Mountain,” he said. “They just kept fighting and fighting. We went down swinging and that’s all I could ask from them.”

Around the horn

No. 9 Perry 76, No. 8 Horizon 62 — Perry used a 50-point second half to overcome a 29–26 deficit at halftime to advance to the next round of the 6A state playoffs with the road win. Horizon’s 62 points were well below its scoring average of 85.8 points per game. Horizon ends the season with a 17–9 overall record and an automatic bid in the playoffs.

No. 2 Sunnyslope 62, No. 15 Chaparral 33 — Coming off its 47–41 upset over Shadow Ridge in play-in games, Chaparral could not keep the momentum moving forward as it fell in a rematch from earlier this year. Chaparral finishes with a 14–14 overall record but has only three seniors on its roster. Chaparral was a 21st seed in play-in games when it defeated No. 12 seed Shadow Ridge.

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

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