Marcos de Niza advances to Horizon Holiday Hoops Invitational title game

Marcos de Niza advances to Horizon Holiday Hoops Invitational title game

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Marcos de Niza advances to Horizon Holiday Hoops Invitational title game

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Defending Division II champion Peoria had no answer for Tempe Marcos de Niza senior guard Richaud Gittens’ first step Friday night.

Nearly every time the 6-foot-3 senior got the ball, he accelerated around a defender for a layup or a pull-up jumper.

The left-hander powered his way to 30 points, leading Marcos de Niza into the championship game of the Phoenix Horizon Holiday Hoops Invitational with an 87-75 victory.

Marcos de Niza (7-2) will play the Scottsdale Christian-Horizon winner Saturday at 5:15 p.m.

Gittens scored 28 of his points in the first three quarters when Marcos de Niza buiilt a 72-48 lead.

Despite coming off a 5-19 season and seeing leading scorer Avery Brunson transfer to Phoenix Desert Vista, Marcos de Niza has become one of the better Division I basketball stories.

The main reasons for the resurgence are the improved play of Gittens and 6-3 wing Devin White, who chipped in 15 points against Peoria (7-5).

“We came into the season knowing we’re all guards, we’re all 6-3 and under,” Gittens said. “There’s not much you can do about that, going against kids like (Peoria 6-6 forward) Jose Bustamante and (Phoenix Brophy Prep 6-9 center) Tim Kempton.

“We just have to play with what we have. But we’ve been doing good so far. I’m really proud of the guys. We should be fine. We just have to work hard every day in practice.”

Marcos de Niza showed the state in a season-opening 78-75 win over Mesa Mountain View and 6-9 junior forward Payton Dastrup that it is a serious contender in Division I.

Gittens had 24 points in the opener, then topped his season high with 26 on Thursday in a 102-86 win over Phoenix Arcadia, before going off for 30 Friday.

“We want to win a state championship,” White said. “With me and (Gittens) leading the way, there is no one who can stop us in the state.”

Quinton Blue, a 6-2 senior wing, had 17 points for Marcos de Niza.

Peoria was led by Bustamante’s 23 points and junior point guard Body Sharkey’s 15.

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Marcos de Niza advances to Horizon Holiday Hoops Invitational title game
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