One of the best Christmas presents Glendale Deer Valley coach Jed Dunn received was the eligibility of 6-foot-5 sophomore Brandon Savage and 6-3 sophomore Ethan Cashion.
After transferring schools and having to sit out the first half of the basketball season, both were cleared to play in this week’s Jared Frame Memorial Cactus Jam at Scottsdale Christian Academy.
They added an extra dimension to what is Dunn’s most talented team at Deer Valley, as the Skyhawks rolled past Tucson Catalina Foothills 75-58 on Friday for the championship.
They improve the defense and make them even more athletic, complementing the two go-to players, 6-6 junior forward Bryce Davis and 5-8 junior point guard Deven Breckner.
Davis had 20 points and 14 rebounds to lead Deer Valley (12-5) to its seventh consecutive win. Breckner ran the offense well and finished with 10 points. Keyvaughn Williams had 11 points.
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“In the future we’ll be like really talented,” Breckner said about this nucleus of underclassmen. “They help a lot. Ethan is very active. He gives us energy. Brandon is another big who helps us on the boards.”
Dunn is hoping the additions of the two transfers — Savage came over from Phoenix Trevor Browne and Cashion from Phoenix Thunderbird — will help get his team over the hump and beat the likes of Glendale Apollo and Phoenix Sunnyslope, two of the top contenders in 5A.
“They blend right in with our guys,” Dunn said.
Deer Valley lost close games in early December to Apollo (69-63) and Sunnyslope (61-58).
“It’s the most talented team that I’ve had,” Dunn said. “Not the toughest. But most talented by far.”
Deer Valley goes with all underclassmen on the court.
On Friday, they dominated from the start against 4A Catalina Foothills (12-5), which was led by junior point guard Sam Beskind’s 15 points.
Davis showed huge improvement just over the course of the season, going strong to the basket and finishing around the glass.
“Last year was kind of scary because I didn’t know how things would unfold,” Davis said. “But the transfers have helped a lot defensively and provided a lot of quick buckets for us offensively. I think we’re molding together really well. We’ve got something special.
Gilbert Christian defeated host Scottsdale Christian 65-54 in the seventh place game to begin the day. It was Scottsdale Christian’s fifth consecutive loss, denying coach Bob Fredericks from his 700th career win.
Fredericks said the last time he experienced a five-game losing streak was 1986, but he realizes the competition his team has been playing lately has been up, and that it is difficult without a full team of healthy players.
SCA 6-8 sophomore forward Ethan Spry, who had 13 points in limited minutes, is showing that he is recovering from the stress fracture in his foot in just his second game. SCA lost top freshman wing Jordon Moody, one of its best 3-point shooters, in the Phoenix Horizon tournament before Christmas with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.
Gilbert Christian is starting to get healthy with the return of forward Nate Graville, who had 14 points.
Gilbert Christian won the Division II title two years ago. SCA captured the Division III championship last year. Both teams expect to see each other in the 2A Conference tournament.