The Iceman was in Scottsdale last evening to watch the Chaparral Firebirds host the #3 ranked Apache Junction Prospectors. I looked forward to watching, for the first time this season, the highly praised Steve Elman and the Prospectors. Ranked #3 in the state by PrepAZ.com, Apache Junction (AJ) seemed to be the clear cut favorite in this match up, but someone forgot to tell that to Chaparral. The Firebirds come away with the 79-74 victory. A solid team victory that will get them noticed come Sunday when the new rankings come out.
Before I get into the game, I feel it is necessary to give the fans at Chaparral two thumbs down. ScottAZ made mention earlier this month on the message board how "Scottsdalish" the Chaparral fans are. He explained what he meant by that and I would have to disagree. Why, you and he may ask. Because there wasn't enough people in the stands to support or deny his observations. At tip off, I would say that there were no more than 150 people in that gym and that included the players. More eventually showed up as the game went on, but the AJ fans still outnumbered the home team supporters. Small crowd, no noise, no enthusiasm....come on folks, you got a damn good basketball team with these kids. Show up, make some noise, and show them some fan support!
The Firebirds pretty much controlled this game from the start. Even when AJ made it a game and eventually took the lead midway through the third, I think that most felt Chaparral was going to win this one. As a team unit, Chaparral is far superior. This was evident from the start and it lasted for 32 minutes. Excellent team basketball.
The first began with 5 or 6 lead changes back and forth until the tempo began to favor the Firebirds. For the Firebirds, the first belonged to Sr forward Ike Davis who netted 7 of his 19. Davis played consistent the entire game making his presence felt inside where basically all his points were scored. Gritty and tough, Davis is a definite work horse when it comes to the inside game and this was also made evident by his 13 boards. The quarter ended with the Firebirds up 18-14.
The second began the same way the first ended. With Davis continuing his excellent inside play and Sr guard Andrew Washko finding his rhythm, Chaparral went on a 12-0 run to start the second. Washko added 8 in the quarter, four straight Firebird buckets to give the firebirds a 34-24 edge. Washko is fun to watch, he possesses an excellent outside jumper, great hops, and a knack for the inside lane. His quickness made it appear that he was everywhere the ball was. He finished with 29, games high scorer.
The first half, wasn't without some shining moments for Apache Junction. They stayed close enough to make it interesting but for the most part it was a one man half. Sr forward Steve Elman kept his team close by scoring 15 of AJ's 29 first half points. The talent this kid has is almost beyond description. If only he would give 100% all of the time. If you never seen Elman play, try and make it to a game this year and see for yourself why he gets so much pub. He finished with 26 but possibly could have had 40 if he wouldn't have been ejected with 5 seconds left in the third quarter. 2 "T"s + dissing a ref = ejection. The half ended 34-29 in favor of Chaparral.
In the second half, both teams poured in 45 points each but it was the Elman ejection that was key. Even though each team matched each other in scoring, the game was Chaparral's to win or lose. They did relinquish the lead in the third and traded it off a few times, but toward the end of the third, regained it, and never looked back.
Apache Junction would have been blown out of the gym if a pair of senior forwards would not have stepped up and kept it close. Steve Richardson, a feisty and gutsy player, looked more like a guard than a forward. Great ball control and cuts inside gave him 11 for the half and 15 for the game. Chris Martinez, who came in in replace of Elman, really took fire in the fourth hitting a pair of threes in route to an 11 point quarter. These two kept this game close enough to keep interesting, but it just wasn't enough.
Chaparral won this contest 79-74, really defining the word "team" in teamwork. They are an enjoyable squad to watch even though their fans would rather stay home and watch reruns of Nip-Tuck.