The Central Region in 5A Boys Basketball has been a dogfight all season long. The state playoffs have been no different. With four of the five region teams making into the playoffs, Mountain Pointe took a very tough Dobson team to 2 overtimes before bowing out in the first round. With first round victories for Desert Vista, Corona, and Marcos de Niza - a showdown with all three teams loomed large as they were all paired in the same quarter bracket. Marcos and Corona played in the second round and Marcos won a hard fought game that went down to the wire. With Desert Vista upsetting Highland, the Central Region showdown to represent in the final four came down to a war of two teams, neither that wanted to go home.
Desert Vista opened up a quick lead in the first quarter behind some excellent play from Travis Gabbidon, going up 24 - 18 behinds Gabbidon's 12 points. The second quarter was a draw, with each team scoring 16 points. Marcos trimmed the lead to 3 points with 1.3 seconds to go in the half, only to see Gabbidon's heads up inbounds play to junior guard Dutch Perryman with a full court pass and a buzzer-beater three-pointer that put the Thunder back up by six at the half, 40-34. During the first half, Thunder big man Xavier Kilby found himself in foul trouble. Both teams played a balanced attack with the Thunder's; Jolin, Gray, Martinez and Pinto. Marcos was supported by solid efforts from Bay, Williams, Broom and Ayodale.
The second half started with a quick spurt by the Padres, and the battle was on. Marcos trimmed the lead to three points on a quarter-ending three-point buzzer beater by Dubois Williams. The forth quarter came down to big shots and free throws at the end by Desert Vista, and they earned their third straight trip back to the Final Four.
Desert Vista 24 - 16 - 17 - 24 81
Marcos de Niza 18 - 16 - 20 - 17 71
Desert Vista; Gabbidon 27, Perryman 21, Gray 21, Kilby 5, Martinez 3, Pinto 2
Marcos de Niza; Williams 21, Bay 19, Broom 17, Towns 9, Ayodale 5
Desert Vista Comes Full Circle
After playing the toughest schedule of the season, with many tough losses along the way, the Thunder have come together as a team at the right time. Running off six straight wins, first-year coach Doug Harris has the team focused and playing at the top of their game. The anchors of this team are seniors Kilby and Gabbidon. Much has been said about these two, but the scoreboard gives them the final say. Kilby has put up monster numbers all season long, and Gabbidon has been right there with him down the stretch. They have been instrumental in the Thunders run to the final four the past three years. Another major contributor from the senior class has been Chris Gray. He has elevated his game to playoff caliber, and is a big reason for the current success. Much has also been said about guard play at Desert Vista. No longer can that be said. Under very tough situations, Josh Jolin has stepped up and along with Chris Martinez; this senior laden team is not done yet.
The present and future look bright for this 5A powerhouse. Juniors Dutch Perryman and Johnny Pinto have been a key, and super soph Julliaan Irvin will be a major force this summer and next fall. Desert Vista also had a very solid JV team this season, and had what most feel is the best freshman class in the state. Combine that with the fact the two feeder middle schools into Desert Vista were the top two programs in the state, and Desert Vista is going to be good for a very very long time.
On A Mission:
Their job isn't complete, particularly for the seniors. A trip to the final four two years ago, and a loss to Gilbert in the championship game last season means that nothing short of a state title will do. Next up for Desert Vista is a date with the mighty Mesa Mountain View Toros, who beat the Thunder earlier in the season. Tuesday night, 8:15PM at the Madhouse on McDowell. The Thunder have come full circle.
"Harris Named Head Coach Of Desert Vista", that headline ran in late July. The naysayers began almost immediately. "To young", "not enough experience to handle this senior laden team", was the cry. PrepAZ.com picked the Thunder as our pre-season #1. The pressure, the talk, the questions came like a ton of bricks!
DV started out strong, and looked as though the transition would be smooth sailing in the eye of the Thunder Storm. Then the bottom fell out, the losing streak, the "I told ya so" rang out throughout the State. The snickers could be heard in every gym.
Harris kept his calm. Harris stuck to the game plan. Harris knew it would take time. A new coach, an experienced team having to learn, and more importantly "buy into" HIS system, the philosophy of a former Player of the Year, a fierce competitor.
What most don't realize is that as Coach Harris screamed his instructions, he actually was learning about his players, what makes them tick, their strengths and weaknesses. Learning his personnel became the key.
It took time, patience and thick skin. The end result has become a "Coach of the Year" performance from a guy who most thought destined to fail given the circumstances thrust upon him.
Desert Vista returns to the Final Four for the third time in three years.
The first two expected.
The third a surprise for most.