Screams bounced off the walls. Like a freight train running through a tunnel, the noise grew louder and louder as a bakers’ dozen of sweaty kids with a basketball trophy went charging through the Jobing.com Arena tunnel.
The Scottsdale Desert Mountain boys basketball team had never played there — or anywhere — so deep into spring.
So when it ended the season by beating Paradise Valley, 65-55, to win the school’s first boys basketball state championship, the group had entered the candy store.
The Wolves had no dynamic offensive player and not much size to combat Paradise Valley’s pair of near 7-footers. All season, players and coaches alike kept reminding outsiders they didn’t care who took shots, got rebounds or took charges.
“We’re willing to do what it takes to win,” senior forward Steven Jurich said, “and we all do it really well.”
The Wolves did just that, and their reward came Tuesday night with a 5A-II trophy and an enlarged copy of the tournament bracket coach Todd Fazio carried home.
“A half-monkey could have coached this group,” joked Fazio. “These guys would jump on a grenade for each other.”
The Wolves (21-11) took control early with Fazio’s fundamentals: Share the ball, defend, rebound and make free throws. It’s what gave Desert Mountain a 28-19 halftime lead.
Junior Kyle Smith scored all 15 of his points in the second half for the Wolves. Until then, contributions from the likes of Jurich (13 points, eight rebounds), Colby Wagner (10 points) and Kurt Wise came to the rescue.
“That’s our team,” said Fazio, who won a state title in his second season as coach. “Different guys every night. That’s how it’s been all year.”
Desert Mountain led 34-21 early in the third quarter, but the Trojans threw the Wolves a sight previously unseen. Paradise Valley set up a half-court trap, and with length and athleticism, the Wolves couldn’t get through or around the press.
Paradise Valley (21-12) eventually forged a 42-42 tie midway through the fourth quarter.
“They fought hard to come back,” Trojans coach Mark MacGowan said. “A lot of kids would have mailed it in.”
But Chris Bonham was called for an intentional foul. Smith made both free throws, then Jason Kramer nailed an ensuing 3-pointer, the Wolves forced a turnover and Smith converted a three-point play.
A tie game became a 50-42 Desert Mountain lead in less than one minute.
“We ran out of gas,” MacGowan said.
Javon Jones led the Trojans with 20 points and Bonham added 16. Alex English scored 13.
Desert Mountain went full steam ahead by hitting 12-of-16 free throws to seal the deal.
But those quickly became lost details.
“Who cares about that stuff?” Jurich said. “We won didn’t we?
Markisha Patterson scored 17 points and Tamara Lio added 10 to lead Tolleson to a 52-29 victory against Avondale Westview to win its first girls basketball state championship. Francheska Nimes led Westview with 11 points.