Scottsdale Desert Mountain boys basketball takes a 12-game winning streak into MLK Classic

Rolando Rhymes at the point has given Scottsdale Desert Mountain dimensions this basketball season that it has lacked before: quickness, speed, scoring, adrenaline rush.

But if you ask coach Todd Fazio why his third-ranked team rolls into Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena against No. 7 Phoenix Pinnacle on Monday with a 12-game winning streak, he will talk about toughness and togetherness.

“For us, it starts defensively,” Fazio said. “The only speed bump was (Scottsdale) Saguaro (an 82-76 win Jan.11), but they shot the ball well. It’s been great team defense.”

Desert Mountain (17-2) and Pinnacle (14-6) is the feature boys game in a big lineup of games in the Martin Luther King Classic. There are three boys games and two girls games at ASU, with the evening capped with a girls Division I showdown between No.1 Phoenix St. Mary’s and No. 2 Pinnacle.

At the University of Arizona’s McKale Center, three girls games and four boys games will be played, beginning at 11 a.m.

At Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix, rivals Goodyear Millennium and Avondale Westview girls and boys teams will play each other, starting at 6 p.m. with the girls game.

Desert Mountain has four players on its roster listed at 6 feet 5. Its biggest player is 6-6 junior Mark Andrews, a rugged defensive stopper.

“Mark Andrews is our best defensive player,” Fazio said. “He’s not afraid. He is one of the best defensive players I’ve ever coached.”

Andrews, azcentral sports Big Schools Player of the Year for what he did offensively at wide receiver, made the stop on Mesa’s 6-10 Isaac Allen at the end to preserve a 49-47 victory over then No.1-ranked Mesa two weeks ago. He leads the team with 5.9 rebounds a game.

Rhymes, averaging 14.8 points and 4.7 assists, is Desert Mountain’s smallest starter at 5-11, but his ability in the open court gives Desert Mountain a dynamic that is hard to defend, because teams have to worry about Desert Mountain’s accurate shooters.

“He is so good at penetrating,” Fazio said. “He can take it or he can get the ball out to our shooters.”

This is the first meeting this season between Desert Mountain and preseason Division I No.1 Pinnacle, a good shooting team led by guards Drew Bender, Dorian Pickens and Trey Ingram. Pinnacle, in the midst of playing five games in six days, hasn’t lost since a 68-66 setback to Scottsdale Chaparral on Jan.11.

“Pinnacle is so good in transition,” Fazio said. “That’s a key for us. At the end of the game, we’ll look at who has the most turnovers.”

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