Salpointe vs. Phoenix Shadow Mountain once again in the 4A state playoffs, only this time it’s for the right to play in the title game instead of for the championship.
The teams play in the 4A state semifinals next Friday night at the Grand Canyon University Arena in Phoenix.
Mike Bibby’s Shadow Mountain team stormed back from a 58-36 deficit to stun Salpointe 83-79 last year at GCU to win the 4A state championship.
Two years ago, the Matadors beat Salpointe 81-48 to win the title.
“I’m excited to play them. I mean, it’s Shadow, we all know. I’m excited,” said Salpointe wing player Majok Deng, who had 16 points in the 83-55 win over visiting Mesquite on Friday night in a quarterfinal game.
Deng then said, “It’s just another game for me.”
That’s the confidence of the senior showing. Why not be that cool and calm? As teammate Evan Nelson said of the Lancers, “Everybody plays to their best potential.”
“Losing and dropping a tough one last year (to Shadow Mountain) after leading the majority of the game, we’ve been looking forward to this since we lost last season,” Nelson added. “We’ve been working for this moment to get a rematch with them the whole season, so I think we’re ready.”
The Lancers (27-2) are challenging to be perhaps the best in school history, according to former legendary coach Jim Flannery, who attends all the Salpointe games.
Flannery told me this year’s team ranks up there with his 1983 and 1992 regional championship teams. He is particularly fond of when his son Sean Flannery, the city player of the year in 1992 as a senior, led the Lancers deep into the state tournament that year.
There’s no denying that this year’s Lancers have some of the most impressive stats in school history, particularly with three players with more than 100 assists — Evan Nelson (112), Jake Cioe (103) and Grant Weitman (102).
Weitman, who had 18 points in the win over the Mesquite, making four 3-pointers, has a nearly 10-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He has only 13 turnovers to go with his 102 assists.
“He’s probably one of the better players nobody knows about,” Salpointe coach Jim Reynolds said of Weitman, a junior wing who is shooting 63 percent from the field and 45 from 3-point range.
Weitman often plays in the shadow of Deng and standout junior point guard Evan Nelson, who finished with 16 points against Mesquite and was the most dynamic player on the court with his playmaking ability.
Jordan Gainey, another junior wing who is the son of Arizona assistant Justin Gainey, finished with 18 points.
Difficult to imagine a better Fantastic Four in Tucson hoops than Deng, Nelson, Weitman and Gainey, especially on this night.
Salpointe beats Mesquite 83-55 to advance to the 4A state semifinals next Friday night at GCU in Phoenix. pic.twitter.com/AtZubj1CiM
That bodes well going against Bibby’s juggernaut at Shadow Mountain that includes ASU-bound Jaelen House, son of former Sun Devil star Eddie House.
“All our guys tend to complement each other but those four guys they’re not the least bit jealous of somebody else having a big night,” Reynolds said. “They’re willing passers. Generally, if we get 20 or more assists, we usually have pretty good games and we hit that number quite a bit.”
Symbolic of Salpointe’s depth of talent, the Lancers’ leading scorer against Shadow Mountain in last year’s loss was Luc Rosenblatt, who had a career-high 24 points.
Salpointe getting some separation against Mesquite after Evan Nelson's 3-pointer gives the Lancers a 30-15 lead with 4:25 left 2Q. pic.twitter.com/aypRDfrpHI
Rosenblatt had one basket against Mesquite but can be a threat in any game.
“I’m just hoping we go up there and play our best and see where that takes us,” Reynolds said. “We’re healthy, knock on wood for that one, and I think we’re playing good basketball.
“I’m hopeful we’ll have four good days of practice and see where that takes us on Friday night.