To borrow a phrase from college basketball: life "on the bubble" is often harsh.
The top 16 teams in the 4A Conference will qualify for the state tournamen next month. Getting in, as loaded as the conference is, will be the tricky part.
Both Marcos de Niza coach Dave Stark and Seton Catholic Commander King grasped that entering Tuesday's 4A Desert Sky Region boys basketball game.
"It sounds cliche but every night is crucial," stated King.
The Padres, ranked 22nd, got the memo. They adjusted to a sluggish start and out-scored the 19th-ranked Sentinels in the second half by 12 to win 63-53.
Stark felt their approach in the second-half began in the final minute of the first-half. Trailing 27-20 the Brown and Gold chipped away and got it to a two-point deficit at the break.
"We preach intensity. If the guys are hustling we are going well. That's what it comes down to," emphasized Coach Stark.
Seton Catholic started four of six on 3-point attempts but couldn't keep up that torrid pace. The Sentinels essentially abandoned it altogether.
King tried to utilize senior Luke Thompson and Carter Bradsky more in the paint. Despite chipping the lead to 52-48 they never seemed to get any continuity in the final quarter. A 11-0 run off of four turnovers did the damage.
"We are right there. We have moments where we excel and then we turn it over three times, as you saw," King said. "It's frustrating but we have a chance to still get some wins."
Mason Stark in the win was enormous as 16 of his game-high 23 came in the second-half.
The Padres (10-7,2-0) earn their second region victory and that is the focus right now with district foe Tempe on Thursday.
Marcos de Niza hopes its mix of senior leadership is jelling at the right time. They have seven on the roster. Experience could keep them from "bursting" come February.
"It might be a scenario where as difficult a region as it is somebody may get left out," added Stark.
* Edgington is a Phoenix-based freelancer.