Phoenix Paradise Valley boys basketball holds off Tucson Salpointe Catholic for Division II crown

Phoenix Paradise Valley boys basketball holds off Tucson Salpointe Catholic for Division II crown

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Phoenix Paradise Valley boys basketball holds off Tucson Salpointe Catholic for Division II crown

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For much of January, Phoenix Paradise Valley’s boys basketball team struggled, losing three of five games and figuring out where to go.

It ended up with pieces of net Saturday, after capturing the Division II championship with everybody all in on defense and staving off a second-half Tucson Salpointe Catholic threat for a 45-39 victory at Jobing.com Arena.

It was the first state championship for Paradise Valley (26-7) since 1997 and third overall. It was the first for coach Mark MacGowan, who played for and succeeded Bill Farrell, after whom the PV gym is now named.

MacGowan, who last had a team in the final game in 2007, fought through player defections in the past few years. But the players who stuck it out ended up with the gold ball, crying with joy.

“Extremely rewarding,” MacGowan said. “We lost a couple of kids because they didn’t want to buy into the team concept. They wanted to get more shots or whatever.”

Paul Watson, a 6-foot-6 wing whose long arms and athleticism made it tough for teams to find scoring openings in the playoffs, capped his high school career with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists and five steals.

“We wanted it so bad,” said Watson, who has signed with Fresno State. “Coach told us at halftime we just have to come out aggressive. We knew our athleticism would rattle them.”

Paradise Valley came out with the same intense defense that held Goodyear Desert Edge scoreless in the third quarter of the quarterfinal win and stuffed Phoenix Sunnyslope point guard Isaiah Cota in the semifinals.

This time, Paradise Valley, with its 1-3-1 zone, bothered point guard Cameron Denson and the wings. Salpointe (23-11) made only seven of 19 shots and two of six free throws and fell behind 25-16 at halftime.

“It doesn’t matter what you run as long as you run it with heart and you run it together,” said 6-5 senior guard Ryan Finley, who had 13 points and ran the offense efficently in the final quarter.

In the second half, when Salpointe made a run, MacGowan moved Finley from the wing to the point. He took care of the ball, set up open teammates with his height and hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter that gave Paradise Valley an eight-point lead.

“They are longer at most of the positions,” Salpointe coach Brian Holstrom said. “We made a lot of physical mistakes. But I can’t hold that agaisnt my guys. They battled their butts off. They have huge hearts. Nobody picked us, I’m certain of that.”

Salpointe, led by Denson’s 18 points, got within 42-37 on Denson’s 3 with 1:30 left. But a turnover and a missed 3 later by Salpointe, and Paradise Valley was ready to celebrate.

“We came together at the right moment,” Finley said. “We all love each other. I’m so happy for all of the guys, for the program, for the coaches. Everyone worked so hard.”

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Phoenix Paradise Valley boys basketball holds off Tucson Salpointe Catholic for Division II crown
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