With Terrell Brown defending, Gabe McGlothan rebounding, Bryan Baptiste dribbling, and Coleson Struhs knocking down 3-pointers, Chandler Basha doesn’t appear to have a weakness.
Until they start wanting to make highlight plays.
Coach Mike Grothaus got on his players during a timeout, barking out, “Stop being highlight heroes,” feeling points were being left on the floor.
Basha, the No.1-ranked boys basketball team in the 6A Conference since preseason, finally put away host Chandler Hamilton in the second and third quarters and clinched the Premier Region championship with a 50-34 victory on Friday night.
This is the first time Basha has ever been undefeated this deep into a season.
At 25-0, why stop now?
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The Bears, 7-0 in the section, has just two games left in the regular season, finishing with Scottsdale Desert Mountain and Gilbert Perry, before they can start thinking about correcting the way things ended last year, losing in the state semifinals.
“Everyone just wants to win state,” said McGlothan, who once again was a beast on the boards. “Everybody is striving for that.”
Hamilton (16-7, 3-3) held its own in the opening eight minutes and led 18-14 in the first minute of the second quarter, before Basha went on a 14-0 run that included a steal and dunk by Brown.
Brown closed the half with a 3-pointer that gave Basha a 31-22 lead.
Brown, who had 10 points, drew the defensive assignment against Hamilton’s best player, 6-foot-5 guard Rashad Smith.
Smith, who came into the game averaging 15 points, had just three points before Brown’s evening was over with Basha building a 46-24 lead.
Smith scored eight points in the final 2:20 with Brown on the bench.
Hamilton was held to just two third-quarter points.
“He’s a really good player,” Brown said. “We’re real good friends.
“I was trying to stay a little closer so he wouldn’t pull up for a 3. And I wouldn’t let him get by me.”
Baptiste’s ability to break down Hamilton’s defense off the dribble helped set up Struhs from the outside. Struhs made four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points.
Basha’s biggest challenge in section has come against Phoenix Brophy Prep, winning both meetings, one of those at Brophy in overtime.
The goal is to finish it off in the regular season and head into state with momentum and a defensive mindset while continuing to share the ball.
“We don’t look at what we’ve done in the past,” Grothaus said. “We’re continuing to get better. We want to be playing our best basketball in the last month.”
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert