PRESCOTT VALLEY — When Phoenix Arizona Lutheran made a big run early in the third quarter of Saturday’s Division IV boys basketball championship game at Tim’s Toyota Center, Glendale Joy Christian coach Scott Brown knew it was time for his team to go back to a full-court press.
And even though the players were tired, having competed in an edge-of-your-seat semifinal game against Tempe Prep just 16 hours earlier, not a single one complained.
In fact, the team welcomed the idea of stepping up the pressure and that defensive push gave No. 1 Joy Christian the edge it needed to capture a 74-63 victory over No. 3 Arizona Lutheran and clinch the title.
“They were dog tired but they just came out and gave it everything they had,” Brown said.
Joy Christian led by as many as 12 in the first half and took an 35-27 lead into intermission, but Arizona Lutheran went on a 17-7 run in the first part of the third quarter and seized a two-point lead with 3:23 left in the quarter.
With the reinstallation of a full-court defense, Joy Christian forced three quick turnovers and put up 13 unanswered points in the second part of the third quarter to jump to a 53-44 lead going into the fourth quarter.
It would be lead that Arizona Lutheran would not again contest.
“We always knew we’re going to make the run,” Joy Christian senior Josiah Stefanski said. “It was just a matter of time. Defense starts it.”
Stefanski had 20 points for Joy Christian, including 13 in the second half.
Arizona Lutheran had eight turnovers in the critical third quarter and 19 for the game.
Joy Christian dominated the glass, outrebounding Arizona Lutheran 35-20 thanks in large part to Jeremiah April. April had eight rebounds, four blocks and a steal Saturday in addition to 14 points.
Saturday marked Joy Christian’s first state basketball title and it left Brown a little teary-eyed and at a loss for words.
“This might be the first time in my life I’m speechless,” he said. “I don’t know what to say.”