All season, Perry freshman point guard Markus Howard shined brightest under the biggest lights. He posted 40 points against Dobson in November and tallied 34 points in a loss to defending state champion Corona del Sol in the Super Sectionals.
In Thursday afternoon’s Division I quarterfinal matchup against Phoenix Sunnyslope, Howard once again rose to the occasion, scoring 22 points and leading Perry to a 54-49 comeback victory over the Vikings.
The young Pumas will meet the winner of Thursday night’s matchup between Corona del Sol and Mountain View in the semifinals on Friday night at 7:45 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.
“We always know as a team we have to play at a high level, especially in big games like this,” said Howard. “We have to come ready to play each and every game because we know teams are going to come after us.”
The Pumas surrendered the first 11 points of the game to Sunnyslope and fell into a 15-2 hole in the first quarter. Sunnyslope was led by Sammy Barnes-Thompkins and Michael Humphrey, who combined for nine points in the first quarter.
“They (Sunnyslope) have been here before, my kids are wide-eyed,” said Perry head coach Joe Babinski. “But I knew once we settled down we would be ok.”
Perry settled down at the end of the first quarter, and outscored Sunnyslope 12-6 the rest of the quarter and to pull within 17-12 after one. Barnes-Thompkins continued his continued his hot shooting in the second scoring nine points and leading Sunnyslope to a 30-23 halftime lead.
In the second half, however, Barnes-Thompkins was limited with foul trouble and the Viking offense struggled. Sunnyslope put up just six points in the third quarter and took a 36-34 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the final quarter, Howard took over. He scored nine points, including hitting all four of his free throws down the stretch. Perry a 39-38 lead early in the fourth, their first lead of the game.
“He’s got great talent,” Babinski said of Howard. “He’s just at true competitor. Defensive end, offensive end, on the boards, he just competes.”
With Barnes-Thompkins fouled out, Sunnyslope looked to Humphrey with under two minutes left in the game. The Stanford commit received a pass on the low block but was quickly double teamed and tied up by Perry sophomore Bryce Fisher. The possession arrow favored the Pumas and Perry was able to hit free throws to close out the victory.
No. 4 Perry 54, No. 5 Sunnyslope 49
Perry 12 11 11 20 -- 54
Sunnyslope 17 13 6 13 -- 49
Perry: M. Howard 25, J. Howard 9, Vredevoogd 4, Mortenson 9, Fisher 4, Siwek 2, de La Veaga 3. Sunnyslope: Barnes-Thompkins, 15, Humphrey, 15, Miller, 6, Stren, 2, Holmes, 8, Murphy 3