Good times keep rolling at Desert Mountain. Boys basketball records have been revised this winter at the North Scottsdale school, both all-time and single-season.
Now, with a 5A Division II state championship in reach following their 70-62 semifinal victory over Peoria Centennial at Jobing.com Arena Monday, the Wolves are primed to break their biggest drought of all.
Next Tuesday, they’ll have a chance to win their first state championship.
They got there with what’s been standard for Desert Mountain this season: No frills, just fundamentals.
“We have a new star every game,” said junior forward Kyle Smith, who was Monday’s first-half star for Desert Mountain. “No egos on this team.”
Despite never playing this far into February, the Wolves (20-11) looked nothing like tournament newbies as they raced out to a 32-22 halftime lead. It was the 6-foot-4 Smith who got them there, with 19 points in the first two quarters from both inside and outside.
Thanks to defense, rebounding and ball movement, Desert Mountain ballooned its lead to 39-26 midway through the second quarter.
That’s when the Wolves’ became unglued. Turnovers crept in and the Coyotes warmed up. The lead was whittled to single digits, then down to 39-38 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.
One minute into the fourth quarter, first-year coach Todd Fazio inserted sophomore Danny Franz into the game for Desert Mountain.
Four minutes later, teammates helped set up Franz for 10 points, and a one-point lead was back to 60-50.
“No one knows where that came from,” senior teammate Kelly Bardet said. “He played big as a sophomore in a big game in a big gym.”
Smith finished with 26 points, including a 3-pointer to give the Wolves a 44-41 lead after three quarters. Bardet had 13 points and Steven Jurich added nine.
Omar Warner scored 17 points, and Alston Umuolo and Mason Oxendale added 15 for Centennial.
Fazio gave his players today off, but they’ll be back in the school’s gym Wednesday for one more week of practice.
“Wow,” Fazio said after walking off the court, “That was a big win.”
In the day’s first state semifinal, Markisha Patterson scored 15 points and Andrea Owens added 11 as No. 4 seed Tolleson upset top-ranked Tucson Flowing Wells, 52-44.
Tolleson faces Avondale Westview, which defeated Phoenix South Mountain, 50-38, for the state championship next Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Jobing.com Arena.