The holidays are big for boys basketball, with major tournaments that help teams prepare themselves for runs in the state tournament.

One such tournament is the McClintock Holiday Shootout, which featured 16 teams vying for the title of champion. After four days, it was Perry, a bona fide state title contender, and surprising Basha, in the finals. After 32 extremely hard-fought minutes, Basha walked away with the title following a 73-63 win.

It was a rough-and-tumble game between the Pumas and the Bears. The paramedics were called in twice: once after Basha forward Devin Kirby went down hard in the first quarter injuring his legs and again after Perry guard Markus Howard hit his head on the bleachers in the fourth quarter defending a pass.

“It was tough to lose a kid like that,” Basha coach Mike Grothaus said. “But we’ve got great kids that rallied around each other. They’re great friends. They support one another … that’s just the kind of group we have. We’ve got a great group of kids.”

Basha reached the finals on the back of its standout defense. The title game aside, the Bears held all of their opponents to 36 points or less in victories over Mountain Ridge, Campo Verde and Westview. Meanwhile, the offense hadn’t been outstanding but, in the victory over Perry, shots started to fall and the offense came to life notching their highest scoring output of the tournament.

“Defense is where our bread is buttered,” Grothaus said. “We’re going to defend every night. That’s what we work on. That’s what we preach every day. We think if we defend, we want to be the best defensive team in the state.

“Offensively it has just been a process. We work on it, it’s just patience and timing and floor spacing and tonight our kids really battled back and the showed that tonight.”

Perry punched its ticket to the finals by knocking off Dobson, Marcos de Niza, and Arcadia. The Pumas are a young team that feature only four seniors, so developing chemistry during the tournament was a key for coach Joseph Babinski.

“We’ve got a lot of kids that haven’t been on this stage,” he said. “Matter of fact, we only have two that played a lot last year. So, it’s a learning experience and we gained a lot in this tournament in wins and losses.”

As the new year rolls around, section play gets serious and, inevitably, teams start to look ahead to the state tournament in February. Tournaments like the McClintock Holiday Shootout serve as a sort of proving ground to help teams prepare for the big dance.

“That’s what a great tournament like this does,” Grothaus said. “The McClintock Shootout is a great holiday tournament and that’s what it does, it prepares us for our section on the back side here.” Basketball challenge

Three-time defending Division I champion Corona del Sol kept its unbeaten record intact with an impressive 4-0 showing at the 16-team VisitMesa.Com Basketball Challenge at Mountain View High School.

The Aztecs beat both of the top out-of-state teams in the event; Imhotep, Penn., 84-70, and Federal Way, Wash., 73-51. Both Imhotep and Federal Way went on to post 3-1 marks in the tournament.

Two other Valley teams, Desert Vista and Pinnacle, went 3-1 in the event that also featured Gilbert Christian, Gilbert, Mountain View, Red Mountain and Tempe, as well as Chaparral and Sunnyslope.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or Follow him on Twitter at @Eric_Smith__.

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