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Ironwood's boys of winter (part 2)

Carabio, Gifft lead Eagles basketball back to finals

Posted 3/1/24

Blake Carabio and Noah Gifft were not youth basketball megastars joining Ironwood's program in the immediate wake of its first state title.

But they've grown over the course of four years into …

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WEST VALLEY PREPS

Ironwood's boys of winter (part 2)

Carabio, Gifft lead Eagles basketball back to finals

Posted

Blake Carabio and Noah Gifft were not youth basketball megastars joining Ironwood's program in the immediate wake of its first state title.

But they've grown over the course of four years into the star players on the Eagles team that plays for its second 5A title tonight.

The pair of senior marksmen  did not even start regularly on last year's unusually deep Ironwood team, though Gifft lead the squad with 10.6 points a game and Carabio added 6.1 points a contest.

Both erupter as seniors. Gifft leaped to 23.4 points a game on 48 percent shooting from three-point range and Carabio averages 16.2 points per game and 43 percent on threes.

"We have to be more engaged in what we do. We don't have breaks and can't get subbed out much," Gifft said. "You have very little margin for error if you want to win."

Carabio was usually the 8th man last year but now is depended on every game. He said this season has improved his endurance and strength.

Thi shooting guard duo leads top seeded Ironwood (26-3) into tonight's 5A title game against #2 Queen Creek Casteel (23-6) at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

That drive started when the Eagles 2022-23 season ended abruptly after a 14-game winning streak moved Ironwood out of the 5A bracket and into the final 8 of the Open Division.

Scottsdale Desert Mountain came into Glendale and ended the Eagles season in shocking fashion, wita an 81-61 loss.

"We made it to the Open and we deserved to be there. But our preparation ended up biting us in the butt," Carabio said. "Coming back from a loss and learning from what we did wrong will make us better."

This year, coach Jordan Augustine did not have nine or 10 players with enough skill to help the varsity in major minutes.

In some ways, the streamlined rotation and role definition helped.

"Last year, we were doing it systematically. This time we're playing for all of us. It's more natural and more comfortable," Gifft said.

Both captains said this team accepts criticism from other players and is more of a player-led unit.

That includes the Eagles' junior guard and third captain, I'yar Shadowvine, who has flourished as a full time point guard. The 5-9 dynamo leads 5A with 6.7 assists per game.

"I'yar was one of our leaders too last year. He was definitely a vocal leader," Carabio said. "We took a big loss last year against Desert Mountain and that definitely changed how we prepare for games."

Then there's 6-1 senior Jadden Jones and 6-5 sophomore Josh Dillard, both of whom have to play "up" in position since the Eagles lack a true big man.

They are Ironwood's leading rebounders and set many of  the screens that get Gifft and Carabio looks from deep.

"I'm scoring a lot but I really can't do it without my teammates. I'Yar leads 5A in assists and my teammates set great screens. And my coaching staff is running plays for me in the first place."

Carabio is receiving interest from Scottsdale Community College and Phoenix College, as well as some out of state junior colleges. He said he plans to study exercise science or businss.

Gifft signed to play at Division III Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, primarily because of the school's academic reputation.

"I love basketball, but honestly it's the academic piece. I want to be set up for my future. The coach is really invested in me," Gifft said. "They have my major that I want, engineering."