It didn’t matter that Paradise Valley's boys basketball team was facing a No. 1 seed. It didn’t matter that it was the state tournament semifinals.
The important thing was being patient and making shots. The fourth-seeded Trojans came out quickly and held on, shooting 65 percent from the field in knocking off top-seed Phoenix Sunnyslope, 63-48, on Thursday night in the Division II boys state tournament semifinals at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
Paradise Valley (25-7) faces No. 6 Tucson Salpointe on Saturday at noon in the state championship game back at Jobing.com Arena.
“Our goal was to win the state championship this year so we have one more to go,” Paradise Valley coach Mark MacGowan said.
And his team was not intimidated by the No. 1 seed.
“I don’t think so,” MacGowan said. “They are great team. We have had three great games against them the whole year so we knew they were ready to play. I don’t think there was any psychological stuff. Maybe our kids were a little more fired up after we lost in triple overtime two weeks ago.”
Big Paul Watson and Ryan Finley were the monsters on this night with 23 and 20 points, respectively. Watson hit six straight free throws in the final four minutes and the Trojans sank 11 of 12 down the stretch after Sunnyslope had gotten within seven.
“They are our two go-to guys all year and they are both great players,” MacGowan said. “They have a little more freedom than some of the other kids to take a 3-point shot or take the ball to the basket.”
Watson also had four points and four blocked shots.
Paradise Valley had built the lead early and didn’t allow Sunnyslope to get into any offensive rhythm. The Vikings ended up attempting 29 3-pointers, making 10, but failing to get the ball inside to its big post, Michael Humphrey. The 6-foot-7 junior was held to four points, seven below his average.
The Trojans lost twice to Sunnyslope this season but the Vikings’ last loss was to Paradise Valley 59-52 on Jan. 8. Sunnyslope had won 11 straight since then.
Navareo Holmes led the Vikings with 19 points, hitting 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. But Paradise Valley held Sunnyslope to 37 percent shooting.
The Trojans came out with efficiency, running off 12 straight points while Sunnyslope missed six of seven shots in the first quarter. The Vikings were living and dying by the three, and missed five of them after making one as Paradise Valley had a 15-3 lead after eight minutes. On Wednesday, Paradise Valley shut out Goodyear Desert Edge in the third quarter, 12-0.
“The last couple times we played them we got off to a poor start,” MacGowan said. “So we wanted to match their intensity and come out to a good start. It did help that we were hitting some outside shots early.”
The threes finally started to fall for Sunnyslope (28-4) in the second quarter, but Paradise Valley kept pace and led 29-18 at the break.
The Trojans have not been in the state title game since winning the Class 4A championship in 1997. Coming into the postseason, the Trojans had lost in the quarterfinals three years in a row.
The Vikings lost in the second round last year, the quarterfinals two years ago and lost to McClintock in the 2010 final.
Paradise Valley lost to Sunnyslope 54-51 on Feb. 8 in the sectional semifinals. But the Trojans have won seven of eight.
“We have had a really good rivalry with them," MacGowan said. "...I’m glad this didn’t go to overtime.”
Paradise Valley 63, Sunnyslope 48
PV 15 14 10 24 – 63
SS 3 15 10 20 – 48
Paradise Valley: Watson 23, Finley 20, Brown 8, Euting 5, Walker 4, Williams 3.
Sunnyslope: Holmes 19, Miller 9, Stern 8, Cota 6, Humphrey 4, Gleason 2.