He may not have enjoyed it at the time, but Ironwood boys basketball coach Jordan Augustine was happy after the Judy Dixon Classic final that Peoria clawed within one of the Eagles late in the third quarter.
Ironwood obliterated its first three foes in the Greenway tournament by 38 points or more - usually a lot more.
But Peoria closed to 35-34 and junior Corey Perry's third three-point shot of the third quarter. Ironwood (15-2) regrouped, opening up an 11-point advantage early in the fourth Dec. 28 and sewing up a second straight Judy Dixon trophy 61-51.
"We needed it. We beat Sunnyslope coming into this and obviously, we have three new guys that are very talented. They needed to feel what it was like to play a game that was close and what the roles are going to be," Augustine said. "I thought we handled it well enough. I would have liked to see us do a little bit better job. Peoria gave us a test and they do a great job. It was good for us and exactly what we needed."
When the Eagles were pushed, senior shooting guard Dominic Gonzalez gave them exactly what they needed. Up one, he drove right, spun left, drew a double team and kicked to wide-open junior point guard Bailon Black for a corner three and 38-34 lead after three.
In the fourth quarter, Gonzalez drove, spun drew another double and hit junior guard J.J. White for another triple and an 11-point lead. Gonzalez was named to the all tourney team and finished the final with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists in the final.
"You hear all the time - guys say you can't become a point guard. I think Dom has done that right now. He's leading our team in assists right now as well as scoring. He's an unselfish guy who wants to win. He's our all-time leader as far as wins and there's areason for that," Augustine said.
Gonzalez was able to cancel out his high-scoring hybrid guard doppleganger, Panthers senior Isaac Monroe. Also on the all-tourney team, Monroe led Peoria (11-3) with 14 points.
5-10 senior guard DeAndre Petty also made the all-tournament team and once again played bigger than his height with 12 points and seven rebounds.
"Isaac is able to really see the floor and execute. DeAndre Petty is extremely underrated. He's the most improved player in the state with his ability to rebound and not let his size dictate anything. He continues to impress," Peoria interim coach Patrick Battillo said.
After moving the ball well to set up Perry's treys in the third, the Panthers' offense stagnated again in the final quarter.
Junior point forward Kevin Kogbara scored to cut it to 47-38 but fouled out shortly thereafter. Peoria did not get closer than nine the rest of the night.
"We didn't play our ball. We sort of let them dictate our offense as opposed to being comfortable and confident. Individuals got focused on not trusting each other like we should. That led to turnovers and not getting looks we normally do create," Battillo said.
His team also had to contend with a full-strength Ironwood squad. Senior transfers Jaden Glass (Agua Fria), Trent Hudgens (Moon Valley) and David Teibo (Centennial).
The coach of Ironwood's outmanned 2A semifinal foe would not be surprised if the Eagles reach the 5A final in a couple months.
Ironwood torched Glendale Prep 101--24 in one semifinal Saturday. Glendale Prep's Steve Silvernail has coached Arizona schools of all sizes for most of the past 30 years and was impressed by the Eagles.
On the flip side, Peoria benefitted from a challenging semifinal. Moon Valley cut Peoria's lead to 60-55 with under three minutes left.
The Panthers pulled away for a 72-52 win. Monroe poured in 30 points.
"Being able to compete against two quality programs on the same day is an experience we don't get every week. We'll be able to take and learn from that," Battillo said.