There was an interesting aspect to both semifinal games Monday night at
McClintock High School. In both the McClintock/Mtn View game, and the
Saguaro/Brophy contest highly ranked 4A teams had the chance to stick it to
highly ranked 5A teams. For McClintock in particular it was a chance at
redemption, as they lost in the championship of the Horizon Tournament too
highly ranked 5A Mesa.
But it wasn't meant to be.
While McClintock lost a hard fought two-point game in the early semifinal; Saguaro looked very much the smaller school as they were getting rocked by Brophy.
It was never a contest, as the Broncos rushed Saguaro early and jumped to a 24-5 advantage by the 7:34 mark in the first half. For the Sabercats the key is the three-headed monster of Danny O'Boyle, Justin Ashbaugh, and Derrick Terrapacki. When one of the three has an off game the other two are usually more than enough to make up for it, and when all three are hitting at the same time this team is as strong as any in Arizona.
But when only one is scoring, Saguaro looks very beatable indeed. With 4:29 left in the first half Ashbaugh took only his second shot of the game. He was fouled and converted on one of his two free throws. Ashbaugh would end the game with only seven shots. He was fouled on four of those and went 6/7 from the line to finish with ten points.
Despite the fact that Ashbaugh finished as the second leading scorer for Saguaro (O'Boyle had 19) he was virtually eliminated from Saguaro's offense. It wasn't that he wasn't effective, virtually every time he touched the ball he created points, but Brophy and their inside tandem of Jake Lewis and Michael Strittmatter was able to keep Ashbaugh from getting the ball. As much as O'Boyle is Saguaro's leader and highest scorer, its Ashbaugh that makes the Sabercats' offense go.
Brophy on the other hand was shooting lights out. This is an offense that early in the season was hitting everything, but skeptics wondered what would happen if their seemingly endless array of guards finally had a collective off night. The skeptics wouldn't find out tonight as everybody was hitting. Kevin Schneider hit his first two threes in the first half, Jake Lewis buried a pair on three-balls during the game, Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos had two long balls, and senior Kyle Westfall was everywhere, hitting long bombs and slashing to the basket.
What made the offensive display so outstanding was the fact that these were not easy buckets. Though Saguaro couldn't produce on the offensive end, they were playing great defense. Every shot was challenged and the Terrapacki/Ashbaugh combo had 11 blocked shots in the first half, but if a Brophy player got a shot off it went in and by half-time the Sabercats were down 38-17.
In the second Brophy cooled slightly and Saguaro, particularly O'Boyle, found their range but the half-time deficit was too much to overcome. With 4:43 left O'Boyle hit a trey to bring the Sabercats within 11 but that was as close as they would get, eventually losing 62-47.
Brophy showed why they have been scratching their way up the rankings. Their guard play is deep and talented. They usually run a three-guard set, but what has been surprising, and the key to their success, is the emergence of Strittmatter and Lewis as a potent force inside. This is still the guard's offense, but the two big men are doing exactly what this team needs, rebounding and playing strong defense. The matchup of Mtn. View and their physical front court against the quick long-range shooters of Brophy should be a great one tonight.