There were times early in this high school basketball season when one key ingredient was missing from Paradise Valley’s game plan.
The problem reappeared Wednesday in the 4A-I boys semifinals. The Trojans just couldn’t score as Avondale Agua Fria advanced to Saturday’s state championship with a 57-40 victory at Jobing.com Arena.
The Owls will meet Goodyear Millennium in Saturday’s title game.
Baskets were at a premium for the Trojans who had trouble adjusting to the Owls’ zone defense.
Early in the season, the Trojans lacked any kind of offense as they had losses in which they scored only 43, 42, 40 and even 25 points. They got significantly better as the season advanced, but old habits sometimes are hard to break.
They were doing just fine until the second quarter when their season began to unravel. The Trojans led, 13-11 after one quarter and had thoroughly outplayed the Owls, making clutch shots and forcing seven Agua Fria turnovers.
The Trojans (21-10) then scored a grand total of three points in the second quarter on Naheer Mirza’s 3-pointer. The Owls scored the last 13 points of the period to lead 24-16 at the break.
Keying the Agua Fria defense was 6-foot-9 Jon Underwood. Not only did he have five blocked shots, but four led directly to easy fast-break baskets for the Owls (25-3) who weren’t exactly torching the rims on Wednesday either.
Paradise Valley’s defense was pretty good, too. The Trojans forced 17 Agua Fria turnovers, but converting those into baskets proved too difficult.
Paradise Vally got within four points at 29-25 with 3:20 left in the third quarter, but the Owls closed out the quarter on a 9-2 scoring run to take a 40-28 lead into the final eight minutes.
D.J. Hamilton scored the last seven points for the Owls and led all scorers with 19 points. Aaron Altherr added 16 and Travis Payton 11.
Brandon Garrett had 12 points for the Trojans and Chris McFaul had 10.