Phoenix — It was a disappointing Friday night for the No. 27 Marana Tigers on the hardwood as the boys fell to the No. 16 North Mustangs 74-61, effectively bringing a close to the season. Knowing it was a ‘win or go home’ situation the pressure was on for both teams, but the Mustangs brought the heat from the start, proving to be too much for the Tigers to handle.
North started the game with the opening bucket from senior Marcel Calvin, helping the Mustangs to establish the tone early. With 4:16 left in the first quarter, junior Vicente Castro buried a three to put the Mustangs up 12-4 over the Tigers, forcing Marana to call a timeout.
Even after talking things over, the Tigers still weren’t able to do much to close out the rest of the first quarter. At the end of the first eight minutes, Marana was down 21-9.
Marana defense started to pick things up in the second quarter, but the offense was still lagging early. It wasn’t until freshman Isaac McNair was able to drive to the rim and draw the foul with 3:22 left before half when the Tigers finally were able to start finding their rhythm, cutting North’s lead to 30-19.
The Tigers were able to bring it back within single digits with a bucket from senior Jesus Duecker, making it 32-23 with around a minute and a half left before halftime, but defense couldn’t shut down the Mustangs. North was able to power back ahead in the remaining seconds to extend the lead to 36-24.
Keeping the momentum behind them, the Mustangs opened up the third quarter with a basket from senior Luke Haugo to keep pushing the lead. Doing a wonderful job of moving the ball, Calvin fed it to senior Iyon Brown for an ally-oop to push the lead to 50-33 midway through the quarter.
Not giving up, Marana responded by going on a 5-0 run and forcing North to call a timeout with 2:39 left in the third. Defense buckled down, picking the pockets of more than one Mustang and converting at the the rim. Closing out the third, McNair was able to get the offensive rebound and the second-chance basket just before the buzzer sounded to cut North’s lead to 52-44.
Storming back, a bucket from sophomore Dezmen Roebuck made it 54-48 with 6:07 left to play. For a brief moment there was a glimmer of hope for Marana, but it quickly fizzled out when North had stretched the lead back out to 63-49 with 4:13 left to play. Marana called a timeout, but it was too little too late, as Brown exploded for the Mustangs to close out the game.
Not only did their hopes of making it to the 6A Playoff Bracket end tonight, so did the high school careers for six seniors on Marana’s squad. While it was a heartbreaking moment for the Tigers, the sportsmanship on the court after the game was outstanding. With a happy heart, the Tigers congratulated all of the North Mustangs coaches and players on making the playoffs while wishing them luck.
The Mustangs will now await their fate, when the final brackets are announced by the AIA on Saturday morning.