The Mountain View High School boys’ varsity basketball team was fresh off their return from the Red Rock Hoops Classic tournament, where they finished runner-up to Copper Canyon in a field of 12 teams.
Looking to maintain their early season success, the Mountain Lions hosted Marana High School on Dec. 6. The Marana Tigers were looking for their second consecutive win after a victory over Tucson High.
“We’re just trying to stay focused. It’s going to be a tough game,” said Mountain View Coach Mike Parillo.
The tip-off went to the Mountain Lions, but the first quarter would not. The Tigers came out with a pace that seemed to catch the Mountain Lions off guard.
In an unusual five-man rotation, the Tigers kept fresh legs with their substitutions, resulting in a fast-paced offense and seemingly impenetrable defense, despite the fact they were significantly outsized.
Marana’s ball movement and ability to break down Mountain View’s defense resulted in a 17-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
“Our strategy going in was to run an aggressive zone defense and our half court offense,” said Marana Coach Jeffery Laos.
Leading the way for the Tigers was Daniel Pruett with seven points.
The second quarter began and ended with Mountain View’s Deondrae Johnson, who closed the deficit with an early three-pointer. When Marana was called for two consecutive pushing fouls and a technical foul, Mountain Lion captains Zach Carter and Abdul Hameed made them pay from the free-throw line.
They combined for 17 points from the line for the game.
With seconds left in the half, Johnson sunk another three-pointer, sending the crowd into hysteria, and the Mountain Lions into the locker room, now trailing 26-25.
Despite the turnaround in the second quarter, Parillo was not happy with the team’s first half performance.
“I was disappointed in our intensity level compared to the last six games. We needed to take care of the ball better and be more aggressive on the defensive end,” he said.
“Be confident on the floor. We have to play with more energy,” Hameed and Carter told their teammates at halftime.
Marana looked to answer in the second half after they were outscored 16-9 in the second quarter.
“I told the players to continue the pressure, to run our offense, and not to overreact to foul calls,” said Laos.
Early on, Carter would prove a big presence in the paint for Mountain View with back-to-back layups. Marana’s only answer for Carter was to foul, a strategy that backfired as he continued to hit free-throws.
With Carter’s rebounding efforts and the sharpshooting of Johnson, who made 50% of his three-point attempts, the Mountain Lions pulled to a 44-40 lead at the end of the third.
The fourth quarter proved to be the best defensive effort from both teams, with Mountain View surrendering only six points, and Marana giving up just eight.
A traveling call against Mountain View with 1:52 left in the game gave Marana an opportunity to pull ahead, but Mountain View quickly forced a turnover to regain possession. A flagrant foul against Marana sent Hameed to the line, where he made one of two.
When Marana could not convert on offense, they were forced to send Johnson to the line with 30 seconds remaining. Johnson made one of two, making the score 50-48.
Marana’s final push down the floor was well-defended by the Mountain Lions, and the Tigers forced a difficult shot that fell short, giving Mountain View the win.
“Hameed and Carter did a great job motivating the team and being vocal,” said Parillo. “We really picked up our defense in the second half. We got the ball into the post, which made a difference.”
Carter finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Johnson put in 15 points, and Hameed had 13 points and six rebounds.
The Mountain Lions improved their record to 5-3. They face Pusch Ridge on Dec. 17.
The Tigers fell to 2-6.