Chandler Eliminates Mountain Ridge

Chandler moves on to round #2...

$$ The end of the line came for Mountain Ridge seniors JD Bittl, Rob Quaintance, Kevin Bohr, Russ Sorensen, and Roger Armendariz Tuesday night as the Mountain Lions lost 68-63 to Chandler in a 5A 1st round state playoff game at ‘Ridge.

Game long, sloppy ball handling combined with cold 4th period shooting spelled doom for the Lions and ended the high school careers for a gallant group.  It was sad to see them go.  The Wolves move on to play Mesa Thursday where it will likely be Chandler's turn to check their gear in.

Ridge came out blazing in the first period as Bittl, Quaintance, and junior Adam Wood all hit from outside.  Josh Morrow, a sophomore forward was strong inside.  For Chandler, sophomore guard Lawrence Westbrook gave notice he was in for a huge night (26 pts.) by stroking two 3-pointers.

But the tone was set for the game as Mountain Ridge continually turned the ball over with careless passing.  It seemed the Lions underestimated the Wolves' quickness.  Chandler stepped into the passing lanes for easy steals they converted on the other end. The 1st ended with ‘Ridge holding a narrow 15-12 lead.

In the 2nd, Chandler took charge by cashing in on the ongoing Lion turnovers.  Westbrook, Ray Lee, Justin Thompson, Chris Burris, and Joey Shaw all feasted on the giveaways.

Bittl. Quaintance, and Morrow hit 3-pointers to keep ‘Ridge close as the half ended with Chandler up 32-27.

You'd think Mountain Ridge coach Drew Tutt would've been able to correct the sloppy play at halftime, but no such luck.  His team came out feeling charitable again in the 3rd.  The turnovers just wouldn't go away.

But miraculously ‘Ridge stayed in the game as Wood hit two 3's, Quaintance nailed one too, and Bittl also checked in with a couple 3's from "way downtown," according to the game announcer.  Bittl's second trey of the period came from at least 8 feet beyond the arc.  The Lions regained the lead 47-45 heading into the 4th.

In the 4th, the ‘Ridge faithful seemed frustrated as the Lions kept trying to give the game away with even more turnovers.  I didn't keep track of the total, but there had to have been over 20.

Finally the Wolves smelled blood and turned up the defensive pressure.  ‘Ridge subsequently went cold with their outside shooting.

Joey Shaw came alive for Chandler and had huge help from junior forward Isaiah Jackson.  Jackson had two timely buckets that seemed to turn the tide. By the 4th period's 2:45 mark, Chandler had a 60-54 advantage.  A few seconds later Shaw nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put his team up 63-54.

Westbrook kept smokin' away from everywhere.  His baseline lay up plus a free throw enabled Chandler to stay up by 10 with 2:00 remaining.

Bittl and Quaintance wouldn't quit, they never do, and the ‘Ridge fans felt they still had a chance when Q made two free throws (1:46) and Bittl bagged a running 6 ft. jumper (1:26) to cut the Chandler lead to 66-60.

Shaw was called for an offensive foul and Sorensen hit two clutch free throws with 54 seconds remaining to make it a four-point game, 66-62.

Chandler turned the ball over but ‘Ridge missed three shots on the other end from close range.

Ray Lee was then fouled but called for a technical for complaining about the rough play.  Lee missed his free throws but Bittl made 1 of 2 for ‘Ridge off the T.  Only 34 seconds remained with Chandler up by 3.

Down the stretch Wood and Bittl both missed 3's.

Westbrook was fouled and at 7.5 seconds, made both free throws to seal the win for Chandler.  The final score:  68-63.

$$ A backcourt like Bittl and Quaintance only comes only once in a great while.  Best friends since boyhood, the two stars have had a chemistry that's captivated many a high school basketball fan.

There were a number of coaches in the audience including Shadow Mountain's Jerry Connor.  I watched them shake their heads in amazement at the antics of B & Q.

Over the past three years, JD and Rob have provided many a thrill for this scribe.  I hope they can play together in college somewhere but that would be a long shot.  As they move on, maybe separate ways, I'll still carry memories of what they accomplished at Mountain Ridge High School.  Thanks guys and best wishes for a successful college career.

$$  There was a very sparse crowd for tip-off but by halftime the stands were 80% full.  Chandler didn't travel many fans (probably just as well because of their obnoxious behavior this season), but those that did come made lots of noise.  I'm sure the Chandler folks let the 50+ mile drive influence their decision to attend.

But the Wolves better come out in force Thursday at Mesa's Jackrabbit Gym to help counter what's sure to be a raucous crowd of ‘Wabbits.

$$  Mountain Ridge tremendously suffered the loss of last season's graduated big man Travis Peterson.  I watched ‘Ridge several times last summer and knew they were headed for trouble inside.  The Lions never got consistent production from their big men this year.

In their defense, they lacked height, leaping ability, and the skills necessary to consistently score in the paint.  The kids put forth the effort but banging heads with regional foes like Lawrence Hill and Ty Morrison can expose you for what you're worth.

Lack of inside presence put a heavy load on the perimeter game and eventually brought the Lions down.  Live by the long ball, die by it too!  B & Q's heroics could only carry the team so far.

$$ Chandler has been a fun team to watch this year.  Give the Wolves credit for their scrappy 4th period defensive effort, as it was the difference in the game.

Westbrook and Shaw are two of the most exciting players in the state.

Coach Jay Troutt has done a nice job with this year's club.

It's unfortunate Chandler that got stuck in a playoff bracket with Mesa but they could pose some match up problems for the Jackrabbits defensively.

I'll be curiously watching to see how Mesa is going to defend Westbrook and Shaw and control the quickness of Burris at point guard.

If Chandler can………….oh, I'm not going there……..Mesa will never lose to the Wolves…………..nah……..?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Chandler              12   20  13   23 --   68
Mountain Ridge     15  12   20  16  --   63

CHANDLER- Westbrook 26, Shaw 17, Jackson 8, Thompson 6, Lee 4, Burris 4
Richardson 3
MOUNTAIN RIDGE- Bittl 20, Morrow 14, Quaintance 12, Bohr 9, Wood 6, Sorenson
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