Welcome to the second-to-last week of the boys basketball regular season in the state of Arizona.
We’re back with a full Three Stars collection this week, after taking a bit of a sabbatical to catch our breath.
We’re back and ready to roll for the stretch run, which includes tonight’s can’t-miss game between 3A south leader Pusch Ridge Christian Academy (20-3) and Sabino (19-3).
Friday features another de facto sectional championship game, as Catalina Foothills (15-5, 6-1) hosts 4A Kino leader, Salpointe Catholic (22-1, 7-0).
The two teams engaged in a battle to remember in their first matchup this season, with the Lancers holding serve at home, 68-57.
We’ll be there for Friday’s rematch, in the final Friday regular season of the boys basketball season.
The play-in rounds for 4A-6A start on Friday, Feb. 8, with the first round of the state playoffs beginning the following week.
A bit of housekeeping: this week’s installment of Three Stars is a little light. If you have a player you’d like to nominate for next week’s version, please email their stats to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Without further ado, here’s who stood out the most in an action-packed week of boys basketball:
3. Ryan Drescher (Ironwood Ridge junior forward)
Stats: 2 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist (71-42 loss, Nogales)/21 points, 9 rebounds (78-74 loss, Marana)
Drescher was electric in the Nighthawks’ overtime loss to Marana on Jan. 24, pacing the Nighthawks’ (7-14, 3-4) offense against the Tigers. The 6-foot-6-inch junior led all Nighthawks in scoring, more than tripling his yearlong average of 6.9 points per game in the process. It’s been a long and difficult year for the squad under first-year coach LeSean Marks, but the performance of-late by underclassmen like Drescher and fellow junior forward Kolby Lathrop bodes well for the team’s future.
2. Jared Clark (Pusch Ridge Christian Academy senior guard)
Stats: 16 points, 6 rebounds (65-54 win, Safford), 13 points, 3 rebounds (71-62 win, Catalina Magnet), 13 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists (48-35 loss, Valley Christian)
The Lions’ impressive nine-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday, with a 13-point loss to Phoenix’s Valley Christian. That said, the Lions are still undefeated in sectional play, with a rematch against Sabino on the horizon. Clark’s performance over the season, in averaging 18.5 points per game, to go with 5 rebounds and 3.6 assists has been remarkable. The sharp-shooting senior should be on the short-list for conference player of the year honors, with his most-recent week showing what he’s capable of. The fact that Clark scored in double figures in all three of the team’s games, despite having a “down” shooting stretch shows how much of a volume scorer he is, which is a rare quality in the high school game.
1. Lucas Elliott (Pusch Ridge Christian Academy senior center)
Stats: 19 points, 14 rebounds (65-54 win, Safford), 12 points, 13 rebounds, 10 blocks (71-62 win, Catalina Magnet/12 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks (48-35 loss, Valley Christian)
Elliott is a surefire Division I talent, measuring in at 6-feet-9-inches tall, with speed and sure-footed scoring and rebounding skills that are rare at this level. The senior showed what he’s capable of last week, with a double-and-triple-double, with the latter coming on an ultra-rare points/rebounds/blocks trifecta. The senior center has been phenomenal this year, averaging 14.2 points per game, to go with 10.1 rebounds and 4.5 blocks. I’m fairly confident that Elliott will grow an inch or two more before he stops his maturation and is a player that could easily handle the task of manning the four or five-spot on a college roster near you. It’ll be fascinating to see how Elliott fares in the 3A playoffs, with the Lions sitting in the number-two spot in 3A, as of Tuesday morning.