Sophomore guard Jaelen House is arguably Phoenix Shadow Mountain’s most valuable player on a team with three players who could be most teams’ MVP.
But he also is one of the team’s more emotional players.
Shadow Mountain’s emphatic 81-48 rout of Tucson Salpointe Catholic on Saturday for the 4A Conference boys basketball state championship at Gila River Arena was marred by a fight in the final seven seconds of the third quarter.
With Shadow Mountain (27-0) nursing a 29-point lead, House blocked Isaac Cruz’s driving shot off the glass. House was called for a foul. House, meanwhile, leaned in to say something to Cruz, who then went after House, shoving him back. House tried to fight back and had to be restrained.
After order was restored on the court, the referees assessed double technical fouls to both House and Cruz, and they were ejected.
If Shadow Mountain is invited to the eight-team Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals at the end of March in New York, House will have to wait and see if he can play in the first round because of the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s automatic next-game suspension for an ejection.
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AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer said that the film will be reviewed, and he expects Shadow Mountain to appeal.
“It doesn’t matter,” coach Mike Bibby said when told that House had said something to Cruz. “You don’t put your hands on anybody. They’re young kids, but you still can’t disrespect like that. I told the referees, ‘We’re up 30 points. There’s nothing for us to be mad at.’ There was trash talking going on all game. That’s part of the game. It should never get to the point where you put your hands on them.
“As a man, everybody here, everybody in this arena, someone puts your hands on you, you’ve got to defend yourself. So regardless of what happens, whatever Jaelen did after, that guy put his hands on him. Jaelen did what he has a right to do to defend himself.”
Salpointe coach Brian Holstrom said he felt both players were being competitive and emotional.
“Our kid didn’t back down,” Holstrom said. “They were being competitive. I wish they could have finished the game.
“It shouldn’t take away from the game. To me, I didn’t think much about it once it was said and done.”
Neither player was made available for comment.
House wasn’t allowed by the AIA to return to the court to celebrate with his teammates during the net-cutting ceremony.
Bibby said his comments are enough and didn’t want House to comment.
House sat all but the first two minutes of the first quarter after picking up two fouls. But when he returned to start the second quarter, Shadow Mountain went on a big run building a 34-15 lead with 4:40 left.
House had 11 points during the 13-4 run.
“We had to play without him, but we did what we had to do,” said fellow sophomore guard Jovan Blacksher, who had 12 points and three steals. “When you’re beating them like that, people get angry. He was just protecting himself. That’s all.”
Senior guard Marcus Shaver was steady throughout for Shadow Mountain. He scored 29 points, making 6 of 10 3-pointers. He also had seven rebounds and three assists.
Forward Darion Spottsville, who was playing in his 15th state tournament game in his four-year career, had 10 rebounds and five blocks, keying a great defense that had Salpointe turning the ball over 22 times.
Shadow Mountain kept sophomore wing Majok Deng from ever getting started. Deng had just five points after being held scoreless and committing five turnovers in the first half.
Guard Cameron Miller was Salpointe’s offense. He had 17 points, making all 10 of his free throws, in the first half. But he picked up his fourth foul in the first 30 seconds of the second half and sat out the rest of the third quarter. But Salpointe rallied without Miller and cut it to the mid-teens, before Shadow Mountain went on another devastating run to close the period.
The son of University of Arizona coach Sean Miller finished with 21 points.
“They’re very special the way they play defense and put pressure,” Holstrom said. “That creates so much offense. We made too many physical mistakes.”