PRESCOTT VALLEY — On paper, Tempe Prep’s chances at a state title are not too promising.
But the figures and numbers that define a team on paper only tell the story of the past; they cannot predict the future.
And if the No. 20 seed continues to play like it did Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the Division IV state boys basketball playoffs, Tempe Prep could be on its way to penning a tale that no statistician could have seen coming.
Tempe Prep maintained a small, but comfortable lead throughout most of the Thursday’s matchup against No. 5 Kearny Ray and captured a 50-40 victory at Tim’s Toyota Center.
Tempe Prep moves onto the semifinal round of the tournament Friday and faces the winner of Thursday night’s No. 1 Glendale Joy Christian-No. 9 Duncan quarterfinal.
“If you’d have seen us at the beginning of the year, you wouldn’t recognize this team,” Tempe Prep coach Jonathan Lambros said, choking back tears. “That’s why it’s so amazing.”
After leading for most of the first half, Tempe Prep took a 24-21 lead into intermission. Lambros said the slight lead was crucial for his team’s confidence.
“It’s a whole different ballgame when you have to play from behind because you have to take gambles,” he said.
Tempe Prep maintained its lead in the second half as well and came out and outscored Ray 16-11 in the final eight minutes to get the victory easy.
Junior Luke Sandoval said his team focused on being patient and eliminating mistakes in the second half.
“We tried to cut down on turnovers. That’s for sure,” he said.
A strong defense was also a big part of Thursday’s victory led by Anthony Brittain, Joe Zwemke and Gaspar Tonnesen.
Brittain said his team feels like they belong in the tournament, despite being the underdog.
“We’ve known all year, even though we haven’t had the best record, that we could come in and really do damage in the playoffs,” Brittain said.
Ryan VanDusen led the Tempe Prep offense with 12 points and Zwemke had 10.