With two freshmen and two sophomores in its starting lineup, Mountain Pointe has been stealing from its junior varsity all season long. So it was nothing new when Kirk Fauske called the shots from the bench in Tuesday night’s opening round of the girls 5A state basketball tournament.
Fauske, coach of the junior varsity team, was pressed into action after varsity coach Dwayne Dobbeleare was suspended for the state tournament opener.
Fauske picked a pretty good spot to win his first varsity game.
The host and 13th-seeded Pride battled back from an early deficit and defeated 20th-seeded Red Mountain 52-43 to advance to tonight’s second round against Corona del Sol.
The Pride relied on a quick defense and a decisive advantage in free-throw shooting to battle back from a sevenpoint deficit after one quarter. Nicole Anders, one of three juniors (no seniors) on the Mountain Pointe roster, led all scorers with 22 points.
The Pride held Mountain Lions forward Nicole Childers to 12 points, well below her East Valley Region-leading 18.5 points-per-game average and held freshman center Kayla Pederson to seven points, below her season’s average of 16.4. They also forced 18 Red Mountain turnovers and hit 24-of-32 free throws (16-of-19 in the fourth quarter) to the Mountain Lions’ 6-of-11.
"We just couldn’t get into our rhythm," Red Mountain coach Martin Appel said. "We committed too many turnovers and couldn’t get to our strengths."
The Mountain Lions managed a 28-25 rebounding advantage, but they hit 17-of-44 shots (38 percent) and were unable to capitalize on Mountain Pointe’s 13-of-41 shooting (31 percent).
Still, the Mountain Lions pulled to within 37-36 after Childers’ short jumper with 4:48 to play in the game and after falling nine points back, Ashley Hudson’s 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Gina Rotella kept them in the game, down 48-43 with 53 seconds to play.
Anders hit six consecutive free throws over the game’s final 1:30 to ice the game.
"We had to be aggressive and we didn’t come out aggressive in the first half," Anders said. "We weren’t in the right spots. We found the right spots in the second half."
Behind five Childers’ points and a 3-pointer by Rotella — Red Mountain’s leading scorer with 13 points — the Mountain Lions held a 14-7 lead after the first. But the Pride started showing their first signs of life in the second quarter, outrebounding the Mountain Lions 10-3 in the period. A driving lay up by Yvonne Nuguid (13 points) and a pair of free throws from Anders pulled the Pride into a 22-22 tie at the half.
Anders scored twice from inside to give the Pride their first lead since the outset of the game (26-22) and they were ahead 30-29 after three quarters. The impressive free-throw shooting carried the Pride the rest of the way. Fauske thinks a team can win with youth, even in the playoffs. "You look at (top-seeded Phoenix) St. Mary’s, they’re 30-0 and they start three sophomores and a freshman," he said. "So, kids are going to decide if they’re going to play or not."