It wasn’t quite playoff action, but it sure felt like it Friday night at Phoenix Cortez High School.
The Cortez boys basketball team pulled away in the second half and defeated Chandler Valley Christian, 71-65, in a preview of the first round of the Division III Section III playoffs.
“We will see them again,” Cortez coach Tarik James said. “This is just going to put us at that two seed and they’ll be at that three seed and we’ll end up playing them first round in sectionals.”
Up just 26-25 at halftime, Cortez (19-2, 8-1) opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run, helping to build up a lead that would hold for the rest of the game, despite a late push by Valley Christian (17-7, 8-2).
“Two great teams just going at it right here,” James said. “It was a great war. Those are the ones you got to appreciate.”
Cortez senior center Matt Drannbauer, 6 foot 5 inches, spearheaded the third quarter offensive outburst.
“(Drannbauer) came up huge today,” James said. “I think he had six or seven huge blocked shots. The way he finished around the basket … Getting slapped like that, he was a man today.”
Drannbauer, who was four inches taller than the next closest Valley Christian player, dominated down low from the first whistle.
Both teams started off cold in the first quarter, though, combining to miss their first six shots. The second quarter also began slowly, as the teams totaled just six points in the first four minutes.
James said Cortez’s only second-half adjustment was upping the intensity.
“We just basically pressured a lot more, we played our game a little bit more,” James said. “We wanted to see what would happen first half just playing man-to-man straight up. (In the second half, we) tried to wear them down a little bit and it worked.”
Cortez has won five consecutive games, with just two remaining before playoffs. James still knows his team has work to do.
“It’s a good little motivational piece to have but I know, (Valley Christian’s Greg) Haagsma’s a great coach,” James said. “He’s won here before and like I said, he’s going to be ready for us coming out next game.”