Verrado falls to Fairfax in 5A play-in game

Casey Pritchard's picture
JACKSON MORTON, left, of Verrado tries to save the ball from going out of bounds off Agua Fria’s Isaias Camacho Jan. 6. The Vipers lost their state playoff play-in game 82-66 to Betty Fairfax. View photo by Ray Thomas
JACKSON MORTON, left, of Verrado tries to save the ball from going out of bounds off Agua Fria’s Isaias Camacho Jan. 6. The Vipers lost their state playoff play-in game 82-66 to Betty Fairfax. View photo by Ray Thomas

Vipers’ 2nd-quarter struggles lead to demise

Verrado boys basketball had one bad quarter in its 5A state playoff play-in game Feb. 9 against No. 14 Betty H. Fairfax, and it was the difference in an 82-66 loss.

The 19th-seeded Vipers were outscored 31-4 in the second quarter and were never able to recover.

I haven’t been part of 31-4 a whole lot in a quarter; I guess there’s a first time for everything,” Verrado coach Chris Stark said.

The Vipers held Fairfax to just 10 points in the first period, but the Stampede made seven 3-pointers in the second quarter.

We defended really well in the first quarter, held them to 10 points, and then they just hit everything in the second quarter,” Stark said. “Some of it was in transition so they were open, and some of it was a breakdown we had. They’re a good team; they played well.”

While Fairfax was making nearly everything it shot in the second quarter, Verrado had trouble buying a bucket.

They made a lot of shots, and we missed a lot of shots,” Stark said. “Their intensity defensively was a factor in the game. They really did a good job of getting up in us defensively and taking away some of the things we like to do.”

Once Verrado started missing shots, Fairfax used a strong transition game to make the Vipers pay at the other end of the floor.

One thing about Fairfax, I wouldn’t say they thrive on it, but they get a lot of stuff in transition off either steals or missed shots,” Stark said. “When we were scouting them, we noticed they transition from defense to offense about as well as any team we played all year, and it showed. They got a missed shot, rebounded and they get out and go. To their credit, they knocked down open shots, and once they started knocking down open shots, they started knocking down tough shots.”

Verrado had a 13-10 lead after one quarter, but a three-point advantage turned into a 24-point deficit after the lopsided second quarter.

Some of the stuff that we were doing was self inflicted,” Stark said. “We were missing free throws, missing layups and missing open 3s. If you’re going to do that against a team like Fairfax that thrives on getting out and going, it makes it really difficult.”

Rather that berate his team at halftime for its poor second-quarter performance, Stark took a different approach.

It was not to get on them, but say, ‘Hey, it was what it was, let’s fight back and try to get this thing down to single digits at the start of the fourth quarter,’” he said. “That was the biggest goal, if we can get this to single digits at the start of the fourth quarter, we’ve got a shot.

We were down 10 points going into the fourth quarter against Desert Edge and came back and beat them. We were down 14, 15 points against Agua Fria and came back to beat them. So, we’ve been down before, that part wasn’t worrisome, it was just, do we have enough time to get it down?”

Verrado cut 10 points off Fairfax’s lead, but could never get the score to single digits, despite playing better in the second half.

We started shooting the ball a bit better, we started taking shots where we could get back defensively, but we ran out of gas a little bit,” Stark said. “We cut it to 14 and had the ball, but they made a couple shots, spread the floor, we had to go man to man and we couldn’t keep up with their speed.”

The loss, as difficult as it was to swallow considering it was the postseason, served a valuable lesson to Stark’s players, he said.

It’s important, moving forward, for our players to understand you’ve got to play for 32 minutes,” he said. “If you take one quarter off against really good teams, and Fairfax is a really good team, unfortunately, that stuff is going to happen.”

Verrado finished the season 17-10, topping the most wins by a Vipers team by one. The 2010-11 Vipers went 16-10.

I’m real pleased; I couldn’t be any more happy for the guys,” Stark said. “We broke the school record for wins with 17, we had 12 power-points wins, made it to the state tournament moving up from Division III to 5A, and we only had one returning player from last year … We’re basically starting from scratch moving up two divisions and getting into the state tournament the first year, so I couldn’t be more thrilled for the guys. I really wanted them to feel that taste of a playoff victory, but unfortunately we weren’t able to do that.”

Verrado graduates only three seniors, meaning most of this year’s team will be back.

I [was hired] late so they didn’t have any summer or fall with me,” Stark said. “We were putting in things for the first time in November, where some teams had run their offense for two, three years. That’s hard to do … There were so many things that they overcame that it makes me excited for the future.”


Casey Pritchard can be reached at
or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.

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