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Phoenix boys close strong to get win over St. Mary’s

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Seeing their 11-point halftime lead evaporate in full at the early stages of the fourth quarter Saturday, the Phoenix boys basketball team was faced with a choice: Respond or suffer a second straight loss to open the season.

The Pirates chose the former.

Phoenix closed the fourth quarter on a 16-2 run to reclaim the lead for good and capture a 65-52 victory over Class 3A St. Mary’s at the Pirate Shootout.

“I think that our kids are learning some new things now and this is the time to figure some stuff out,” Phoenix head coach Troy McNichols said. “As a coach, we probably could have stopped some of those runs with some timeouts, but I wanted our kids to play through that stuff just by nature of the (up-tempo) style we’re trying to move to. We showed a lot of moxie and every time St. Mary’s came back, we had an answer.”

Phoenix (1-1) led 42-34 heading into the fourth quarter, but St. Mary’s opened the period on a 16-7 run — half of those points coming from Eli Haynes — to take its first lead of the night at 50-49 after back-to-back 3-pointers from the right corner by Noah Friesen.

The Pirates, however, took the lead right back on a putback by Roman Stubbs and a basket in transition from Dylan Harper.

It proved to be just the start of things for Phoenix.

After Haynes — who scored 10 of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter — cut it to a one-possession game at 54-52, the Pirates answered with a 3-pointer from Isaiah Ayala-Talbott and two baskets in the paint by Julius Bolstad to go ahead 62-61 with less than two minutes to go.

“We missed a couple, they made a couple and momentum took over. It was nothing really more than that,” St. Mary’s head coach Kyle Walker said. “Isaiah hit some shots when they had to hit some shots, and we couldn’t get the stop we needed.”

Ayala-Talbott recorded a game-high 18 points, including eight in the decisive fourth quarter. He also knocked down four of the Pirates’ five 3-pointers.

Phoenix’s Miguel Valadez also finished in double figures with 15 points, while Harper had 11.

“Everyone’s a contributor in our program and it could be your night on every given night,” McNichols said. “Tonight it was Isaiah, the next one it could be Harper. We know if we play great defense, it’s going to give us opportunities. You always want to see the sharing of the basketball. ... We would like to make more 3-point attempts, but Isaiah was huge when we needed it. Miguel, overall, had a great floor game and we’re pretty pleased with those kids.”

Four different players scored baskets as Phoenix jumped out to a 10-2 lead midway through the first quarter. The Pirates stretched their lead into double digits for the first time at 27-16 thanks to a Jack Monroe basket in transition and two free throws from Ayala-Talbott.

Haynes’ basket in the paint cut the Pirates’ lead to 29-18 going into the half.

Friesen finished with 12 points and had all of the Crusaders’ four 3-pointers Saturday. He hit a pair of treys at the start of the third quarter to pull St. Mary’s (1-2) within five at 29-24.

Heemir Patel added eight points for the Crusaders, who face another 4A squad in Mazama on Tuesday night in their home opener.

“The first half, I don’t think we played very well,” Walker said. “At halftime, we went back in and readjusted, and I thought they did a really good job of letting that first half go and came back out and fought through that. That was our third game in three nights, so for them to answer back and do what they did showed a lot of heart.”

In Friday’s late game, Phoenix fell into an early hole against Douglas and tried to recover with a fourth-quarter flurry but fell short, 65-61.

In that game, Valadez led the way with 16 points and the Pirates got 10 points apiece from Monroe and Ayala-Talbott. Jace Page scored 18 to lead Douglas.

ST. MARY’S (52): Friesen 12, Kranenburg 6, Walker 7, Haynes 15, Delplanche 0, Patel 8, Johnson 5. Totals: 22 5-12 52.

PHOENIX (65): White 0, Brown 0, Monroe 6, Stubbs 2, Je. Selden 2, Valadez 15, Trenbeath 3, Crump 0, Harper 11, Ayala-Talbott 18, Bolstad 6. Totals: 24 8-11 65.

St. Mary’s8101618— 52

Phoenix15141323— 65

3-point goals — St. Mary’s 4 (Friesen 4), Phoenix 5 (Trenbeath 1, Ayala-Talbott 4).

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DOUGLAS (65): Dunstan 8, Anderson 0, West 0, Nielsen 6, Kelly 10, Ledbetter 11, Rincon 12, Page 18, Metianu 0, O’Toole 0. Totals: 24 18-28 65.

PHOENIX (61): White 0, Brown 0, Monroe 10, Stubbs 9, Je. Selden 2, Valadez 16, Trenbeath 0, Crump 0, Harper 7, Ayala-Talbott 10, Bolstad 7. Totals: 24 6-17 61.

Douglas12191816— 65

Phoenix6191323— 61

3-point goals — Douglas 6 (Ledbetter 3, Dunstan 1, Rincon 1, Page 1), Phoenix 5 (Ayala-Talbott 2, Monroe 1, Valadez 1, Harper 1). Fouled out — Harper. Technical foul — Nielsen, Stubbs 2.

Reach reporter Danny Penza at penza@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @penzatopaper.

Miguel Valadez of Phoenix shoots over the back of Kayden Walker of St. Mary's during Saturday’s game. Photo by Denise Baratta
Phoenix's Jack Monroe (3) scores two points over Heemir Patel of St. Mary's during Saturday’s game. Photo by Denise Baratta
Phoenix’s Jenner Selden (10) looks for an opening past St. Mary's defender Eli Haynes during Saturday’s game. Photo by Denise Baratta