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Balanced Mustangs hold off Phoenix

MURPHY ' Hidden Valley was a good high school basketball team during the 2003-04 season.

Now the No. 2-ranked Mustangs are a very good team bordering on greatness.

The difference?

Scoring balance and a better overall presence at the post position.

The Mustangs showcased their well-rounded team in front of a packed house at Hidden Valley High Friday night as they pinned a 63-54 loss on defending Skyline Conference champion Phoenix.

— Jordan Hayter and Cody Crowe scored 15 points each and Nick Hayter added 11 as the Mustangs moved to 16-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play.

Phoenix fell to 10-8 and 4-2.

We're a much better overall team this season, nodded Nick Hayter, a 6-foot-3 senior forward. We've got four guys averaging in double figures and our big guys are so much better.

We've got a chance to go deep in the playoffs.

The Mustangs galloped to a 21-13 first-period lead against the Pirates, then quickly padded their advantage to 28-13 early in the second on a 3-point basket by Josh Gotfried, a layup by Wil Dillon and a Jordan Hayter putback.

The game seemed on the verge of turning into a rout, but the Pirates, who stunned Hidden Valley on its home court last season to clinch the Skyline title, would have nothing of it.

Three-point baskets by Justin Krafft and Dan Ritchie, along with a steal and layup by Nathan Bursk pulled the Pirates within 28-21, and they trailed only 34-28 at halftime.

Hidden Valley again extended its lead to double digits in the third quarter as Crowe got loose under the basket for three layups and a rebound basket. But the Pirates again avoided the knockout blow, going on a 10-2 run that got them within 44-42 late in the period.

Ritchie, playing by far his best game of the season at both ends of the court, sparked the Phoenix rally by drilling two more treys.

However, the Pirates couldn't sustain their momentum. Hidden Valley tallied the final seven points of the quarter ' including a back-breaking, driving layup at the buzzer by Jordan Hayter ' to take a 51-42 lead.

Phoenix never got closer than six points the rest of the way.

We used up a lot of energy to make it a two-point game, Phoenix coach Kevin Dixon said. We worked so hard to get to that point but we never quite got over the hump.

Dixon was tickled with the play of Ritchie, a 5-11 junior wing who tied with Bursk for team scoring honors with 13 points and hounded Hidden Valley on defense whenever he was in the game.

Ritchie was phenomenal, Dixon said. He hit those 3s at key times and he must have forced four or five turnovers. His hustle was the main reason we came back like we did.

All told, Phoenix knocked in seven 3-pointers compared to four by Hidden Valley.

Kyle McKinnis backed up Bursk and Ritchie with 10 points apiece for Phoenix.

We expect to get everyone's best shot and I think Phoenix gave us that tonight, Hidden Valley coach Norm Hayter said. When we took care of the ball, rebounded and played good defense we were able to get a pretty good lead, but we had some lapses and they took advantage of them.

A year earlier, coach Hayter would have had to rely on his two sons to maintain control. Friday, there were others ready and willing to step forward.

Most notably, it was Crowe, a 6-6 junior who pumped in 13 of his 15 points in the second half.

Most of my points came on layins, Crowe said. Every time I made a cut and got open, someone got me the ball.

PHOENIX (54) ' Bursk 13, Ritchie 13, McKinnis 10, Krafft 8, Decuir 6, Joseph 4, Smith 0, Sanders 0, Sinner 0. Totals: 21 5-9 54.

HIDDEN VALLEY (63) ' J. Hayter 15, Crowe 15, N. Hayter 11, Dillon 8, Sager 6, Gotfried 5, Kasler 3. Totals: 25 9-13 63.

Phoenix.....................................13 15 14 12 ' 54

Hidden Valley...........................21 13 17 12 ' 63

3-point goals ' Phoenix 7 (Ritchie 3, McKinnis 2, Krafft 2), Hidden Valley 4 (Kasler 1, N. Hayter 1, J. Hayter 1, Gotfried 1). Fouled out ' Bursk, Gotfried.

JV score ' Hidden Valley 65, Phoenix 57.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail