PRESCOTT VALLEY — Duncan’s fast breaks and sharp shooting of gave the No.9 seed enough of an edge to keep pace with top-seed Glendale Joy Christian for two quarters, but not quite enough for four.
After a tight first half, Joy Christian put up 28 points in the third quarter to help propel the No.1 seed past Duncan in a 79-71 victory in the quarterfinal matchup of the Division IV boys basketball state tournament at Tim’s Toyota Center on Thursday.
Joy Christian takes on No.20 Tempe Prep Friday in the semifinal round.
Joy Christian had trouble getting things going offensively in the first half, and Duncan managed to shoot 50 percent from the field.
“We didn’t have good shot selection which, for us, is unusual because usually we do a pretty good job at moving (the ball),” Joy Christian coach Scott Brown said. “We couldn’t hit from the outside to save our lives for a while.”
The teams were tied 37 all at intermission, but Joy Christian found its rhythm on offense early in the second half, with the help of 7-foot center Jeremiah April and Josiah Stefanski.
“Once we finally start falling consistently, then I felt like our guys kind of took a deep breath and found that extra gear,” Brown said.
April and Stefanski each had six points in the third quarter. April finished the night with 21 points.
Brown said a strong, deep bench full of capable shooters has helped Joy Christian this season and is especially key in the playoffs.
“You can look at any of our 32 games and usually we’ll have four, sometimes five or six guys in double figures,” he said. “Even when we’re not playing well there always seems to be a guy, at a certain time who gives us a lift.”
Duncan outscored Joy Christian 18-14 in the fourth quarter, but didn’t quite have enough left in the tank to overcome the deficit.
April said playing all season with a target on your back can get nerve-racking. He said his team tries not to think about what’s at stake in big games.
“We just try to play it like every other game,” he said. “Loosen up and have fun with the guys and just treat it as a regular game and not get all tight.”