Cactus boys basketball entered its big region showdown with Deer Valley ranked #5 in 4A and averaging 72 points a game.
The Cobras left their gym with a 15-point loss to the new #1 team and struggled to finish with 42 points. Deer Valley (16-3 overall, 12-0 regular season) led from the middle of the first quarter and built their advantage to 23 before settling for a 57-42 win.
These West Valley Region rivals met in the finals of the North Valley Shootout during winter break and the 68-63 Skyhawks win was much closer. Coach Jed Dunn likes the trajectory of his team, though he was a bit irked that Deer Valley gave up the final eight points of the game.
"We watched that game today. We're super talented and still making too many mistakes down the stretch. If we can figure that out, that would make me sleep better at night," Dunn said.
Cactus sophomore center Bradey Henige and sophomore guard Rob Jenkins both averaged near 20 poins a game coming in. Both produced near their average but Jenkins' 15 points came on 4-12 shooting and Henige was more efficient - shooting 6-9 for 16 points - but the Skyhawks' swarming defense limited his attempts.
Meanwhile nine of the 10 Skyhawks that played scored, with Dunn often substituting five at a time.
"Our main strength is our depth. Like I told them today, I wouldn't know how to create a scouting report against them because we have so many weapons. Take Semajay away and we've got Sleeper. Take Sleeper away and we've got Jojo. Greg Giles is our best defensive player. We have a lot of options," Dunn said.
The coach said this is a fun team to coach and a good group of kids. His only worry is complacency.
Monday night Deer Valley was running at full efficiency. The starting lineup saw senior forward Semajay James (3 points) concentrate on playmaking and Giles (2 points) focus on defense while junior wings Jaydon Cameron (11 points) and Eric Perkins (7 points) provided some offense.
Plus the Skyhawks had the luxury of bringing junior point guard Jayden Sleeper, who scored 12 of his game-high 17 points in the second half, and senior forward Jojo Montgomery (8 points, 5 rebounds) off the bench.
"We'll base our lineups on who we're playing. This team has no selfishness. Jayden and Jojo are talented enough to start. But they're coming in at the four-minute mark against a tired first group or another team's second group that they are better than. So the sell is easy, unless we were losing," Dunn said.
Like Dunn said, the lineups can change, and this team is able to play positionless basketball better than most. Giles had four rebounds and Sleeper grabbed a couple of boards.
James often initiates the offense and Cameron and Montgomery, despite being the tallest players on the team, are two of the Skyhawks' best outside shooters. James ended the first and third quarters by driving to draw the Cobras' defense and kicking to Montgomery and Sleeper, respectively, for threes just before the buzzer.
"I know how Jojo plays. Jayden Cameron is another tall guard. I know how he plays. We all kind of developed this chemistry because we all can shoot it a little bit. It opens the floor a lot for each other
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