Chandler Basha, the only undefeated team in last week’s Visit Mesa Basketball Challenge, remained unbeaten this season.
But it took overtime on Wednesday night to stay that way.
With a gridlock defense in the paint and with senior guard Terrell Brown finishing plays, No. 1-ranked Basha pulled away from host Phoenix Brophy Prep for a 53-46 6A Conference Premier Region victory.
Brown had eight of his 19 points in the four-minute extra period. He hit a 3-pointer to begin OT and sealed it with 1:11 left, converting a three-point play that gave Basha (18-0, 2-0 in region) its biggest margin at nine.
“I love pressure, playing in high intensity games,” said Brown, an All-Arizona wide receiver in football. “It’s fun for me.”
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It wasn’t very enjoyable at times for Basha coach Mike Grothaus, who watched Brophy Prep, utilizing its size, go from man-to-man to a 1-3-1 zone to try to get Basha out of a rhythm.
it worked for much of the game with senior power forward Gabe McGlothan picking up his third foul with two minutes left in the third quarter.
But Coleson Struhs hit three 3-pointers, including one with 3:46 left in regulation to give Basha a 39-37 lead.
Brophy (9-4, 1-1), coming off a third-place finish in the Tempe McClintock tournament last week, didn’t make a field goal in the final five minutes of regulation and for the first two minutes of overtime.
“It’s region basketball now,” Grothaus said. “Every possession is going to matter. It’s going to be a battle from here on out.”
It doesn’t get easier for Basha this week. It plays host to Chandler Hamilton on Friday night. Hamilton took unbeaten Phoenix Shadow Mountain to the wire before losing in the final of the McClintock Shootout.
Struhs, who had 17 points, felt the confidence and poise shown down the stretch Wednesday is a carryover from last year when Basha made a deep run in the state tournament with McGlothan and Brown playing key roles.
“We have a really close group of guys,” Struhs said. “We just play really well together. We defend, rebound and hustle. We do what Coach has us doing.”
The strong play of Struhs, Brown and swingman Brennen Davis made up for a rare off night by McGlothan, who still found a way to make his impact felt on the boards. A thunderous McGlothan follow dunk in the first half ignited Basha, which got behind 33-29 with 3:33 left in the third quarter on the second 3 of the quarter by Ian Burke, who had 12 points.
“There are no off nights in this region,” Grothaus said. “I think we’ve got one of the toughest regions in the state. Every night, it’s going to be tough. We got stops when we needed to and made some late free throws.”
Basha would like to stay undefeated, but the games will only get harder.
“We don’t talk about it at all,” said Grothaus, who has the school off to its best-ever start. “We talk about improving down the stretch.”
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert