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Knights top Wolves to win Scorpion Challenge
Submitted by Casey Pritchard on Wed, 01/04/2017 - 12:00am
Brenden Van Dyke's 37 points pave way for Westview
Estrella Foothills and Westview battled tooth and nail in the championship game of the Scorpion Challenge at Desert Edge High School Dec. 29, but the Knights' Brenden Van Dyke was the difference maker in helping them claim the title.
Van Dyke scored a career high 37 points as Westview pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 72-65 victory.
“We had a really tough time in the first half getting easy looks,” Westview coach Brendan McEvoy said. “In the first half, all of Brenden's points, while they were close to the basket, he really had to earn it. What you saw in the second half were easier looks because we were more patient offensively.”
Van Dyke credited his teammates for helping with his performance.
“I know there was a smaller kid on me, but it's a team effort, everyone moving the ball around and getting me open, and it was my job to finish,” Van Dyke said. “I had to do what I had to do to help get the win.”
Estrella tried some different tactics on Van Dyke, but couldn't slow him down.
“We wanted to front the post at the start, but later in the game he was scoring so often we decided to start digging in on him more and using a double team,” Estrella guard Ricky Robinson said.
Despite giving up so many points to Van Dyke, Estrella coach Rich Gutwein thought his team's effort was outstanding, he said.
“I thought we made it difficult for him, we tried to front him, he's just good,” Gutwein said. “He's a good player, got a lot of second efforts, but overall, I'm really pleased with the game. I thought we competed, did some really nice things, and certainly I'm pleased with the week. We definitely got better.”
Westview's tournament also featured victories over Nogales, 58-51, and El Mirage Dysart, 52-34. The three victories raised the Knights' record to 13-1.
“This group has never felt like they're going to lose a game,” McEvoy said. “We've been up on a team, kept the throttle on the whole time, stepped on the necks, and that's unique. For me, this is the first group that naturally has it; they do not let up. They never, ever think they're going to lose.”
Against Estrella, Westview never led in the first quarter, but seized the advantage early in the second when Robert Hernandez scored four straight points to put the Knights on top 16-14. The lead seesawed back and forth, and Robinson made a layup at the second-quarter buzzer to tie the game at 30-30 heading into intermission.
“We were getting lost on some switches,” McEvoy said. “They do a good job of screening, and even screening on switches can be effective if you slip the screen, meaning you almost fake the screen and know we're switching, so the screener comes open. A couple times we had a couple guys going with the guy coming out, leaving the guy at the front open.”
Estrella struck the first blow in the third quarter, sandwiching hoops by Sammy Harris and Robinson, then a 3-pointer from Grant Greabell, around a Christian Diaz basket, making it 37-32. However, with Estrella leading 42-39, Van Dyke scored seven straight points for Westview and the Knights ended the quarter on a 14-4 run, taking a 53-46 lead into the fourth period.
Making an adjustment on screens was critical in slowing down the Wolves' offense in the second half, McEvoy said.
“All you have to do with that is keep your butt to the baseline and talk it out,” he said. “We weren't doing a good job talking. We said, keep your rear end to the baseline, talk out the switches.”
Despite Westview's improved second-half defense, Estrella's Greabell still scored 29 points, which included making seven 3-pointers.
“Grant is a great player, he's going to get his 25,” McEvoy said. “I know he only had seven [points] the other night [Dec. 28 against Rio Rico] – he kept taking the same shots, but he hit them against us. Four or five of those 3s, we had hands right in his face, and what are you going to do? There's nothing you can do.”
In addition to Greabell's 29 points, Robinson added 18.
“He got us into our stuff, he scored, he was able to exploit on drives,” Gutwein said of Robinson. “I thought Ricky did a really nice job.”
Westview's Diaz also scored in double figures, finishing with 16 points. However, Van Dyke's big day stole the show.
“What he does for us – even though it showed up on the scoring end tonight, he has games like that – but what doesn't show up is his defense, the attention he attracts in the post, and he's a really good passer,” McEvoy said. “He's a big man with guard skills. He's a really unique player.”
Estrella finished the week 2-1, beating Moses Lake, Wash., 69-57 and Rio Rico 63-59 in overtime. Rio Rico is ranked fifth in the 4A power points.
“I think it was a great experience,” Gutwein said. “We got to play a really solid team from Washington, see something new, a top-five team in the state in Rio Rico, and Westview is top six in 6A. So, it was great. It was exactly what I was hoping for out of this week – obviously I would have liked to have won all three games – but it was exactly what we needed going into a big week next week.”
Westview's tournament championship win avenged a loss in the title game of the Welcome to the Jungle tournament at the beginning of the year. It was also the first time McEvoy has won a tournament championship since he began coaching at Westview in 2013. He also did it with two of his key players out of the lineup.
“We won our section my first year, so that's in the trophy case, but this is the first championship game we have won, so it feels really good,” McEvoy said. “We're 13-1, these guys are doing it without two of our key players, D'maurian [Williams] being out, seeing his family, same thing with Ezra Phillips, who is in our first rotation off the bench. Two guys on vacation, and guys like Jacob Lofton and Christian Diaz stepped up in their place and really played their guts out.”
Getting to the championship game was a bit tougher for Estrella than Westview. The Wolves had to fend off Rio Rico in overtime to make it there, getting contributions from everywhere.
Greabell, who averages 23.3 points per game, was held to seven points on 1 of 17 shooting. Despite his scoring absence, six other Wolves contributed points, while Robinson and Harris had 20 apiece.
“Sammy and Micah [Haught] played four incredible quarters, from their intensity and they played hard nosed basketball, and Sammy being able to score when the lid was on the basket for some of our guys,” Gutwein said. “He's very capable of doing that, so it was great to see him step up.”
Estrella trailed 16-3 in the first quarter, but managed to pull out of a deep hole.
“It may sound odd, but I was fine on the bench; I felt we were OK,” Gutwein said. “I knew they were going to come with a lot of energy. We didn't play great, but I thought if we could withstand that storm a little bit, we could work our way into it, and we did.”
Estrella led by two points in the final minute of overtime and could have ran out the clock and taken a foul. However, with 41 seconds remaining, Nick Masi, who had twice earlier been swatted on 3-point attempts, drilled one from three feet behind the arc to put the finishing touches on Rio Rico.
“If I could micro manage every part of the game, maybe I wouldn't have him take that shot, but I love the fact that he has the confidence to take a shot like that, so I won't usually be critical in that type of situation,” Gutwein said. “He hit it, was confident enough to take it, so I couldn't be more pleased with the outcome.”
Westview's semifinal win was a little easier. The Knights trailed 5-0 early to Dysart, but scored the final 19 points of the opening quarter. Westview struggled to score in the second quarter, and led just 24-15 at intermission.
The offense picked it up after that, and the defense was even better. Leading 36-21 after three quarters, the Knights went on a 16-2 run in the fourth quarter before taking out all of its starters. At that point, they led 52-23.
“I'm super proud of that side of things, because if you think about that number, 23, if you go back and look at the halftime score, we didn't need to score in the second half,” McEvoy said. “If we defend like that, we'll find a way to score. We'll get a lot of run outs. We're one of the best fast breaking teams in the state.”
Estrella returned to the floor Tuesday against Youngker. The result was unavailable at press time. The Wolves host Buckeye at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Westview is back on the court at 7 tonight, hosting Mesa Westwood.
“I hope we keep rolling,” Van Dyke said. “We have an undefeated season [power-points games] right now. I just want to keep it rolling.”
Casey Pritchard can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.
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