Round 1: Ironwood Ridge vs. Santa Rita:
Much hype and speculation has surrounded this newly formed rivalry between two of the three teams picked to finish atop their 4A Sonoran division, which includes the Rincon Rangers. The winner of this contest in no way would establish a dominance over the other, but a leg up of respect that could not be taken or given lightly. It is something that has to be settled out on the court and not by their respective cheering sections trying to yell over one another.Ironwood Ridge has a solid crowd backing that calls themselves the sixth man. This is evident by the large six plastered on the front of their blue shirts. Santa Rita presents an awesome cheer squad that pumps up the crowd at every opportunity with acrobatic moves and awesome gymnastics up and down the court. Parents and neighbors were out in force to support with Eagle pride. Amidst all of this there was still a basketball game that must be played.
Those who witnessed this game, I am sure feel the same sentiments as I. Much like Sunnyside has proven thus far in 4A football, one of these two basketball teams may challenge for the basketball crown as well at years end. This is a heavy burden to carry, but with the caliber of ball they bring each night they are both more than capable.
At the first tip of the ball the game took on a feel of March madness as each team would take it's time in their offensive sets realizing that every possession will count in this one and may come down to a last second shot. Right out the box Santa Rita came out in a junk defense that brought out the patience of the Ironwood kids. Dylan Johnson quickly established himself with a backdoor alley-oop dunk. Devin Stewart would quickly answer with a basket as well. Dylan would answer with another bucket from the left wing and drive to the basket with a quick pull up. He finished with 6 first quarter points and gave me reason for having chosen him in my top ten SOAZ players.
Troy Blair would step in with a bucket and a three-point play to finish with 5pts in the quarter. A basket by Josh Hageman and three-pointer by Angel Avalos would keep the score close for Santa Rita. The fast and furious first quarter ended with Ironwood ahead 15-11. The battle of the crowds had now begun. Let's go Ironwood; Lets go Eagles could be heard going back and forth trying to out do the other.
The second quarter would start out with a big three pointer by Dylan Johnson after each team had traded turnovers. After not scoring for some time Coach Ferguson called a timeout at the 4:42 mark to calm his players down and stick to the task at hand. Out of the time out Santa Rita would go on a 7-0 run with two drives by Devin Stewart and another 3pointer from Avalos.
Coach Pieroway was now forced to call a timeout against the roar of the Santa Rita crowd. I had finally found the game that was going to leave me satisfied not just for a half but also for an entire stanza. Ironwood came out and finished up the quarter with a 6-1 run with two inside baskets once again by Troy Blair. Jesse Vitch would finish with four points in the half as the horn sounded and the scoreboard read Ironwood 24, Santa Rita 23.
Mini run after mini run marked this game as neither could establish a strong hold of the other. Like a championship fight they both took each other's jabs and kept coming looking for that knock out punch. Jeff Blair showed his leadership and seemed to take over the second half where Johnson left over in the first. Another Santa Rita timeout came at the 3:52 mark down 29-30 each team took the others jabs at the tone of six points each. Ironwood would close out the quarter with a 7-0 run. The scoreboard read Ironwood 36, Santa Rita 30.
With two quick fouls on Avalos in the third Hegaman entered in the fourth to come up with some timely baskets. Kyle Carney seemed to up his contribution as well with a couple of drives to the basket and dishes to open teammates. Another 6-1 run by Santa Rita would keep the game close and cause another Ironwood time out at the 4:41 mark of the fourth quarter. A 7-0 run by Ironwood would ensue upping the score in their favor 44-38 forcing another timeout. Man, my head was spinning, but I love this game!
Time on the clock ran down and turned this beautiful game into a foul and timeout festival. The problem for Santa Rita is that they kept fouling Chad Callahan who played iron man minutes in this particular contest. He sank six straight free throws in a row and receives my game ball for this contest. Not a flashy player but fundamental personified is what I'll call him. He helped close out the contest Ironwood 52, Santa Rita 42.
Even though the horn had sounded and the floor was cleared this contest is far from over. Another game is on the schedule in early January on the north side of town and a potential playoff game could have these teams face off a third time. All and all this was good clean fun high school basketball and I hope to see more contests as good as this one. Devin Stewart ranks high on my list of point guards in our great state of Arizona. Again my stats will vary from your local newspaper, but this was another contest that had scorekeeping problems.
Ironwood Ridge 52
Chad Callahan 13pts, 7rebs; Troy Blair 10pts, 4rebs, 3assists; Jeff Blair 10pts, 3rebs; Dylan Johnson 9pts, 4stls, 3rebs; Jesse Vitch 6pts, 7rebs, 2stls; Ryan Crawford 2pt; Garrett Vedhage 2pts.
Santa Rita 42
Devin Stewart 13pts, 7stls, 3assists; Angel Avalos 13pts, 4rebs; Josh Hegaman 8pts, 4rebs, 1blk; Kyle Carney 6pts, 3 assists, 3rebs; Alex Walker 2pts, 3rebs