Phoenix Thunderbird standout forward Zane Johnson didn’t need an elbow to the mouth and a split lip for extra motivation against rival Scottsdale Saguaro.
It didn’t hurt as the University of Arizona-bound forward scored 17 to lead the Chiefs to a 64-45 win in 4A Desert Sky Region play.
Johnson was going up for a rebound against a swarm of Sabercats and took a vicious elbow to the face, going down to the floor as No. 1 Saguaro (21-5, 7-1) streaked down court with a man advantage.
After the whistle, Johnson left the court and didn’t return until the end of the period.
But Johnson came back strong in the second quarter, pacing the No. 4 Chiefs (14-9, 4-4) with seven points and combined with eight points from senior Kyle Rassel, Thunderbird led by 10 points before halftime.
“It fired me up,” Johnson said of the bloodied lip. “We came out ready to play after that.”
While Thunderbird controlled the momentum for most of the first half, Saguaro had a 6-0 run in the final 1:45 of the second quarter, which included a 15-footer by junior Dominick Ruth following a steal with 4 seconds to go, but the Chiefs dominated the second half, much to the delight of coach Buddy Rake.
“We came out of halftime wanting to win the first two minutes,” Rake said. “We thought if we could win those first two minutes, we could win the ball game.”
The Chiefs outscored the Sabercats 28-12 and started the second half with a 12-4 run in the first two minutes.
Junior Nick Witherill and Ruth paced Saguaro with 10 points apiece.