PrepAZ #3 ranked Brophy Prep Broncos was in Tucson last night to take on the #7 ranked Salpointe Catholic Lancers in their annual game of 5A basketball. With a record of 15-2 the Broncos comes in with an impressive resume with a recent victory over #10 ranked Horizon to claim the lead in their 5A Desert Valley Region. After a lack luster performance against Sierra Vista Buena, an upstart Tucson Badger squad shocked Salpointe on their home court last week leading to tonight's game.
Both teams started off hot, as Kevin Schneider and Kyle Westfall were unconscious from the outside combining to go 5 of 6 from beyond the arc to pace the Broncos. Salpointe's key was obvious in the beginning and it was to get the ball to 6'9"big man Damir Suljacic. Billy Robb would take first crack at the matter but quickly picked up two fouls to send him to the bench. Damir would finish with 5pts for the quarter to pace the Lancer's followed by outside trey's from Tre Clarkson and Josh Escobedo. Lyle Westfall would score 9 first quarter points to pace the Bronco's. The quarter ended reading Brophy 17 and Salpointe 15.
Jack Darlington would guard Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos clinging to him like a cheap Hawaiian shirt limiting him to no points in the first quarter. Thanasi showed his court savvy and great ball handling skills by looking for open teammates and not forcing the action. Both teams would continue their hot shooting in the second quarter as Brophy would press the action on the defensive end but become very disciplined while running their sets on the offensive end. Turnovers would plague both teams, as Damir would continue to pace Salpointe finishing the half with 12pts with Tre Clarkson contributing 7pts going 4 for 4 from the charity stripe. Kyle Westfall would finish with 12pts as well for the Broncos shooting 4 for 5 beyond the three-point arc with 5pts each from Kevin and David Schneider. The half would end with Salpointe leading 32 to 29.
The third quarter produced an even one between the two squads as they would come out and score 13pts between them. Damir would continue his dominance in the contest, but Michael Strittmatter would test his will picking up a couple of fouls on him with strong moves to the basket. Nick Souder would contribute to the game by relieving Darlington and continuing the pressure on the Bronco's Thanasi. A lull had set over the contest between the teams, as the fourth quarter was sure to bring more action. The gymnasium was almost full to capacity with fans as the referees called a pretty decent game limiting their affect on the contest. The quarter ended with the same three-point spread, as each team was able to answer the others basket at 45-42 with the Broncos still trailing.
To start the fourth both teams would once again heat up. A big three pointer by Clarkson and a three point play by Suljacic would prompt a much needed three pointer from Kevin Schneider. At the 4:27 mark the score read Salpointe 51 and Brophy 45. Brophy would pick up the pressure full court and harass the Lancers, but they would continue to take the game through Damir and he answered each time. Coming out of a timeout by the Broncos it seemed as though they went against Suljacic to force his defensive hand guarding Michael Strittmatter. Michael would tally some quick baskets leading to Damir's fourth foul. Over the next three minutes the Broncos would score 14pts with key baskets by Strittmatter. A steal by Kevin Schneider and bucket by Strittmatter made the score 62-59 in Salpointe's favor. Brophy would foul Damir in the backcourt and send him to the line with 30 seconds left. He would miss the first but made the second to make a four-point advantage. Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos would drive the length of the court going strong to the basket to bring the score to 63-61 followed by an immediate timeout. Coming out of the timeout Salpointe would inbound the ball to Jack Darlington who was immediately fouled. He would step to the line to shoot the double bonus against the stomping in the stands of the Brophy faithful.
The first free throw rolled off the side of the rim followed by a big roar. Life was given to the Brophy team as Darlington got set to take his second shot. The second shot clanged off the front of the rim giving Brophy the opportunity to tie the game and force overtime, but the rebound ended up right where it had begun back in Darlington's hands. He was again immediately fouled and given two more shots to salt the game away. The gym began to rock but he calmly stepped to the line and sank the first free throw. He remained poised for his second shot but once again missed bringing the crowd to its feet. There was a mad scramble, but Darlington would again pick up his own miss shot this time muscling up a lay-up that would all but seal the game.
This turned out in my opinion to be a game that Salpointe had to have. Through a team effort on this night I believe they achieved that goal and solidified that through the leadership of Damir Suljacic with his inside scoring. Brophy in all respects is a very good basketball team that is very well coached and could make a lot of noise leading up to this year's championship. I hope to hear from both of these teams when playoff time comes about at years end.
Damir Suljacic 25pts, 8rebs, 1blk; Tre Clarkson 15pts, 5rebs, 6assts, 2stls; Josh Escobedo 8pts, 2rebs, 1asst; Jack Darlington 7pts, 5rebs, 1stl; Stevie Ledesma 4pts, 6assts, 4rebs, 2stls; Carlos Madrid 4pts, 1reb; Jeremy Radtke 3pts, 1stl
Brophy Prep 61
Michael Strittmatter 15pts, 4rebs; Kyle Westfall 14pts, 3rebs, 1asst; Kevin Schneider 13pts, 3rebs, 3assts, 2stls; Jake Lewis 6pts, 9rebs, 2stls; Thanasi Panagiotakopoulos 5pts, 3assts; David Schneider 5pts, 2assts, 2stls, 1reb; Billy Robb 3pts, 1reb, 1stl