The Sunnyslope Vikings played host to the Scottsdale Christian Hawks last evening in what became a contest of epoch proportions. For those of you not there, the Iceman will do his best to put you in the seats, but first a little bit about the schools.
Sunnyslope is a division 4A public school with approximately 1,600 students and Scottsdale Christian Academy (SCA) is a private 2A school with 360 students. With a ratio like this, the casual observer would assume a lopsided contest.
SCA is known for their excellent athletic programs and many up and coming ballers chose this institution to display their talents. So with this in mind, the 5 to 1 student ratio advantage is null and void. These two teams have talent and depth on the bench, not to mention top notch coaching staffs. The home court advantage was almost taken away from Sunnyslope due to the tremendous fan turnout for SCA. Not much space available on either side of the court and for the majority of the game and there was a "championship" atmosphere in the air.
We knew we were in for a treat here, but what was about to transpire almost brought down the house. This game began with both teams putting on clinics. Turnover clinics. Each team swapped turnover after turnover with both accumulating enough an entire game's worth in the first quarter. I counted fifteen in the first eight minutes alone. Needless to say there was some sloppy play going on here but you could tell the kids were really pumped up and just needed to settle down a bit and play their game.
The first to settle and shine in this game was Sunnyslope junior guard Josh Conard who drained a pair of 3 pointers midway through the 1st to help give the Vikings a 14-8 lead after one. Everyone knew they were watching their teams underachieving early and wondered how long it would take them to regroup.
How about 5 seconds?
As soon as the second quarter started, this game was on!!!! Conard continued with his hot hand draining another pair of 3's. 6'3" senior forward Andrew Johnstone came to life also in the second to score 4 of his 11 points. It wasn't his point production that impressed but his overall hustle.
Johnstone, a powerful, bruising forward, was everywhere and in everyone's face, going at 110% every minute that he was on the court. The Vikings extended their lead to 12 (21-9) with five minutes left in the second and the momentum swung a bit. I don't recall any single event to swing it in the Hawks favor but someone must have lit this fire.
With the starters SCA has a height advantage that would surpass many bigger schools in the valley, and they finally began to gel. It looked as if this team had been playing together since childhood. The Hawks soared back scoring 22 points in the second utilizing great ball movement to get open looks from behind the arc as well as inside the paint. Forwards, Chris Osborn (Jr.) and Kevin Coble (So.) began showcasing their abilities. Both are quick for big men, (6'6" and 6'7" respectively), and both have a great touch, not only inside but beyond the arc as well. Osborn and Coble scored 14 of the Hawks 22-second quarter points. The score at the half was 34-30 in favor of Sunnyslope.
The third and fourth quarters were identical to that of the latter half of the second. Fast paced, up and down basketball with 3's raining down from the heavens. Every member of both teams contributed in some way to this game. Back and fourth these two went exchanging buckets. We all waited to see what team would tire and what team would step up. With the pace of the game on cruise control, it was time for a difference maker.
SCA's big man, 6'9" junior forward Nikem Ojougboh broke the stalemate. He made his presence known inside by grabbing offensive rebounds and following them with crucial deuces. He plays with a fiery spirit and emotion, most noticeable at the end of the third when he was fouled on the front end of a three-point play. He gave his team that Tiger Woods fist pump as if he sank a 40-foot putt. He drained the charity shot and from that point on it was all SCA.
SCA slowly began pulling away behind solid play from everyone. One thing that really caught my attention was how every member of the SCA team wanted that ball. The desire to make a difference but yet all with unselfish play. Four players in double figures and the fifth playing with a 100 degree plus temperature. If everyone was healthy all five starters would have probably seen double digits. Coble led all scorers with 24. Either team could have won this game, but in the end it was SCA that pulled out the victory 72-67.