On its first possession, Phoenix St. Mary’s guard Blake Davis hit a 3-pointer. Then it was Brandon Jenkins, Demetrius Walker, Jordan Gentles and Davis again.
That was only the first quarter, and the swishing rarely stopped for the No. 2 seed Knights in their 67-45 victory against No. 10 Chandler Hamilton in the 5A Division I boys basketball state quarterfinals on Saturday night.
St. Mary’s, which has reached the state championship game the past two seasons, is headed back to Jobing.com Arena in Glendale on Wednesday to play Sierra Vista Buena in the state semifinals on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
The Knights (20-4) shot 58 percent, including 64 percent from behind the arc.
Given this team’s athleticism and size, a hot shooting night spells disaster for others.
“That’s a good club,” Hamilton coach Kevin Hartwig said. “They’re big and athletic and when they shoot the ball like that, I don’t know if they can be beat.”
The Huskies (16-14) did what they wanted by keeping the game a half-court contest and not letting the Knights run on the break. But with the Arizona State-bound Walker, Byron Fulton and Davis, the Knights were too tough on the glass.
Aided by a pre-tip technical foul assessed to Knights coach David Lopez for arguing with the officiating crew, the Huskies hung tough until just before halftime. Fulton scored all six of his points in the paint and Walker (game-high 24 points) hit a 3-pointer in the final minute of the second quarter. Hamilton managed only seven points in the quarter and trailed 30-20 at intermission.
The lead grew incrementally in the third quarter and the Knights blew the game open in the fourth, thanks to free throws and transition baskets.
Davis added 17 points and Brandon Jenkins scored nine for St. Mary’s.
Jack Cone scored seven of his team-high 15 points in the first quarter for Hamilton. Jonathan Wilt added 14 points.
The Knights have been on a roll of late. Walker was a late arrival after his family moved from California, which meant he missed the early portions of the season for eligibility reasons, then had to mix himself in with an already-talented supporting cast.
“It’s about blending talent,” Knights coach David Lopez said. “It’s like running two boards against each other. There have been some splinters, but it’s gotten smoother. It’s a tribute to how bad they want to win.”
So, too, did Hamilton, but after a controversial technical foul in the final seconds of last year’s state semifinals allowed St. Mary’s to force (and win in) overtime, the Huskies had consecutive quality seasons fall short to the Knights.
This year, it was for a far different reason.
“There’s a group of four or five who’ve come up through the ranks together, and it’s been tough, but they’re winners,” Hartwig said.