Scottsdale Independent

Region-leader Pinnacle preps for heated rivalry against Horizon

Horizon High School players huddle with the coaching staff during a timeout in the fourth quarter in a 79-76 win over Desert Mountain. (Special to the Independent/Ben Leibowitz)

Horizon senior Aidyn Albright races up court during the Huskies’ 93-78 win over the Hawks Friday, Jan. 19. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

The Pinnacle High School and rival Horizon High School boys basketball teams will play their season finale at Horizon Tuesday, Feb. 6, in a matchup between two squads that are likely playoff-bound.

When these teams last met on Dec. 12, Pinnacle (18-7, 9-0 Desert Valley Region) overwhelmed Horizon (17-7, 7-2 Desert Valley) en route to a 93-47 home win.

Horizon’s 47-point outing on Pinnacle’s home court marked a season-low. For reference, Horizon’s potent offense and fast pace allow the Huskies to score nearly 90 points per game this season.

The key for Pinnacle in the previous outing was to limit Horizon’s usual 3-point shooting barrage. Horizon shot just 7-of-39 from beyond the 3-point arc in that game.

Pinnacle Head Coach Charles Wilde said the key to beating the Horizon Huskies is to pressure them on the perimeter, make them drive and limit the number of 3-pointers they can shoot.

“And, if they are shooting threes — they’re contested threes,” Coach Wilde said.

Coach Wilde said his Pinnacle Pioneers are comfortable running with their rival, matching the breakneck pace Horizon likes to set. Pinnacle proved that last season, when it beat Horizon 118-100 in a marathon game — a final tally not typically seen on a high school scoreboard.

“We probably will run more than we will slow it down,” Coach Wilde said. “We’re not afraid of that game.”

Pinnacle junior Trent Brown echoed his coach’s sentiment.

“The thing about our team is we can play with pace,” Brown said. “And I think we can run with anyone in the state.”

Prior to a 79-76 road win over Desert Mountain High School Thursday, Jan. 25, Horizon Head Coach Jerry Conner spoke about the competitive nature of the 6A conference. He said it’s the reason why the only game he focuses on is the next one on the schedule.

“There’s no looking down the line,” Coach Conner said. “That’s one of the fun things about our conference. Our conference is so well-balanced that every night is a dogfight. So, you don’t dare look passed anybody.”

Pinnacle’s sophomore point guard Nico Mannion — who ranks as the ESPN No. 20 recruit in the country among the 2020 class — said he stays fired up for a rivalry that he was introduced to as a freshman last year.

“I was figuring it was a rivalry game. It was going to be packed and stuff, but their whole student section had carrots, so that kind of set it up for pretty much all four years,” Mannion said.

The 6-foot-3 Mannion has a coif of bright, orange-red hair. In a display of high school hijinks meant to fluster Mannion, some Horizon supporters brought carrots to the rivalry game. This strategy might have backfired, though, “because now, every time I get to play them, that’s in the back of my mind,” Mannion said.

Through his first three games in the rivalry against Horizon dating back to last season, the young point guard is averaging 24.3 points per game.

Mannion said he relishes the trash talk as well as playing away from his home court.

“I’d say I’m a little more comfortable at home, but I like the road games more,” he said.

“It’s fun sometimes when it’s uncomfortable, because you don’t know what to expect. When the crowd starts chanting at you, like the ‘overrated’ chants, those get me going. I just love being able to prove people wrong.”

Editor’s Note: Ben Leibowitz is a student-journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.