The course of last Friday’s 4A play-in game between Catalina Foothills and Prescott Valley’s Bradshaw Mountain High School was decided shortly after the opening tip.
The two squads, who entered the Foothills gym as the 11th and 22nd seeded teams in the play-in round, traded a few baskets before the Falcons’ brisk pace and sharp shooting buried the Bears, 70-32.
It was a fitting first step for a Foothills squad that’s looking to one-up its semifinal appearance a year ago. Friday’s victory serves as the first step in that quest.
Senior guard Carson James, who scored eight points in the team’s one-sided victory, said the Falcons are dialed-in on their shared goal of making another playoff run.
“This is really why you’re playing,” he said. “The regular season is important, but for us we use that as a tool to get us ready for this moment. When you’re putting everything towards these games, that’s why you’re here, this is why you want to play, for these games right here.”
The Falcons certainly looked the part Friday, jumping out to an 18-4 lead at the end of the game’s opening quarter, before taking a 30-point lead at the half.
Eight members of Doug D’Amore’s Foothills team scored in the clash, and Trace Comeau lead the squad with 14 points.
D’Amore said he didn’t need to offer much motivating heading into the contest; his players were already embracing the task at-hand against a Bears squad that went 13-10 during the regular season.
“It’s a playoff game, so you respect every opponent that comes in here,” D’Amore said. “I think we played our game. We started out strong, we started out with good teamwork and momentum, and it’s going to carry itself through.”
Junior forward Hayden Moser, who finished with 10 points in the victory, said playing in the ultra-competitive world of postseason basketball is a unique experience that’s equal parts enthralling and nerve-wracking.
“If you lose you go home, it’s just scary,” Moser said. “You’ve got to bring your A-game. You never know what could happen.”
The Falcons next game in the state playoffs took place Tuesday, Feb. 12 after deadline against TEAM.
Speaking with Tucson local media after the Bradshaw Mountain game, James said the Falcons will remain rested and ready to roll, regardless of who they face in the postseason.
The senior guard is confident that the team is playing its best basketball at the right time and that they’ll be a tough out, regardless of who they face.
“We figure out who we play this weekend, and scout accordingly, study for them, but really, my whole time here it’s always been mostly about us, about what we do,” he said. “If we execute and do what we need to do, then we’re a really hard team to beat.”
The key to success in the postseason as a coach, according to D’Amore, stems from an ability to serve a role that blurs the line between leadership and psychology.
“A lot of times, they get uptight, so it’s just trying to understand it is an important game, there is a ton riding on it, but we are who we are, we’ve done a lot of work to get here, so just stay true to ourselves,” he said.
Moser believes the Falcons’ latest conquest is proof that they’ve righted the ship since a slow start to their regular season.
The junior said the Falcons can continue their red-hot shooting that allowed them to steamroll the Bears last Friday, with an eye on bringing a title home to the Tucson program.
“We start out a little slow at the beginning of the year, a little rocky, but we just keep chugging our way up and I think we’re still going up,” he said. “So hopefully we just keep it going right now.”