Chandler High School narrowly won their play-in game against Millennium High School 44-42, on Friday.
Averaging 60 points per game, Millennium, used a full-court press to create a fast tempo. However, senior point guard Mike Anderson found the holes in Millennium’s trap and helped Chandler slow the game down with smart, crisp passing.
Millennium head coach Ty Amundsen gave Chandler credit for controlling the ball and pace of play. But he also said rules need to be changed to prevent teams from holding the ball and running out the clock.
“I didn’t think they were going to hold the ball that much,” Amundsen said. “More power to them to want to play that way, but there’s definitely a dire need for a shot clock in Arizona for games like this. You’ve got a shot clock there and it’s a totally different game.”
In the first quarter, the more experienced Chandler took an early 12-6 lead, jumping passing lanes and forcing turnovers.
“We pride ourselves on team defense,” Chandler head coach Jonathan Rother said. “Our guys trust one another and that doesn’t change, no matter who we play.”
Then 6-foot-9 freshman DaRon Holmes ignited the Millennium offense, scoring 19 points and bringing the game to a tie, after three quarters.
Both teams traded baskets throughout the fourth quarter. Possessions were long. Defensive stops were hard-fought.
Junior guard Isaiah Somers, who scored 13 points for Chandler, said that was his team’s plan going into the game.
“Defense just gives us confidence,” Somers said. “It’s good to know we can rely on shutting down the other team and not just offense to get the win.”
The game came down to several key free throws. In the final minute, Chandler freshman Carson Kelly walked up to the foul line and made 3 of 4 shots, securing the win.
“I just knew that I had to knock them down,” Kelly said. “We fought so hard to have a chance to win the game. So I stepped in, and that’s what I did.”
Heading into Friday’s win-or-go-home showdown, Chandler lost four consecutive games. But with the season on the line, they showed up.
“We don’t really look at our record,” Kelly said. “We know what we can do when we play together. We just came in here and did that.”
Rother said those tough losses only prepared his team for the big moment.
“We keep grinding, and we stay true to what we do,” Rother said. “We’ve played a really hard schedule… so next week, I like our chances against anybody.”
With the win, Chandler advances to the round of 16 in the Arizona 6A State Championship Tournament.