When Peoria met Kellis Dec. 3 for the renewal of their neighborhood boys basketball rivalry after nearly six years off, the Panthers had a clearer sense of who they are.
The visitors grabbed a 8-1 lead and then were forced to adapt. Second-leading scorer Calvin Windley grabbed a rebound and landed awkwardly and left the game. He did return to the game but was in foul trouble and scored 6 points, 10 less than his season average.
Still the Panthers pulled away as the night went on, beaking Kellis comfortably 87-68. With the Cougars concentrating on junior leader Andrew Camacho - who still had 20 points and nine assists - freshman guard Caden Bass (24 points) senior forward Tay Bloomer (19 points, seven rebounds) filled the void.
"Caden, as a freshman, was not rattled by the environment. This was a great crowd with the rivalry back. He stays composed. Tay and he were huge for us. Drew still was highly effective but other guys stepped up. The opportunities were there for Tay and he took advantage of that. It's what we're about. We go through all types of game plans and scenarios in our practices," Peoria coach Patrick Battillo said.
Kellis (5-3) battles back to cut its early deficit to 23-21 on sophomore forward Jai Anthoni Bearden's dunk. Peoria was up 25-21 after one but built a 41-31 cushion by halftime.
Camacho's three gave the visitors a 67-52 lead after three and the advantage ballooned to 21 points in the fourth, rendering the competitive portion of the game over.
"We're still trying to figure out who we are at times. We were selfish at times in our offensive sets. I have to do a better job of creating easier sets for our players until A.J. gets back because once he gets back he changes outr team," Kellis coach De'Rahn Stinson. "It's on me. I definitely take this loss. Pat outcoached me and he was better prepared."
Peoria is off to a 5-2 start with big tournament wins against quality 6A teams in Liberty and Scottsdale Chaparral and a convincing 20-point win the night before Kellis against an Estrella Foothills team led by Grand Canyon-bound 7-1 center Noah Amenhauser.
The 2020 4A runner up Panthers have a showdown with the 2021 4A runner up Panthers - from Paradise Honors - Tuesday night. However that finishes, Battillo has many reasons to feel good about this group, particularly compared to last year's injury riddled squad.
"The most exciting part is how bought in to the culture and the coaching they have been. Everyone plays for one another and within the system. It makes it a lot easier for us to excell. A lot of it is a tribute to the work we put in during the offseason," Battillo said.
He said Windley had a deep shin bruise after a Kellis player laded on it during that rebound, but he should be ok going forward.
Nine Panthers scored in the game, compared to only five Cougars. And the fifth Kellis starter, Amare Abrizu, only took three shots and scored two points.
As Stinson mentioned earlier, the Cougars are not at full strength yet, with Millennium transfer A.J. Marsh having to sit out the first half of the regular season. But the Peoria game showed that junior guard Chris Ruiz (23 points) and sophomore forward Jai Anthony Beaden (27 points) taking 34 of the team's 46 shots isn't a good formula against quality opposition.
"We did a really bad job of getting Tay Wilson involved. He's been averaging 15 points a game, and he had maybe six tonight on maybe four shots. As a staff we talked about having turnovers in the 20s with only six assists. I have to do a better job of getting people involved in our offense," Stinson said.
While the crowd may not have been as electric as in 2010-11, when both teams reached the 4A-I semifinals, or 2011-12, when Peoria won Division II and Kellis make the semis, it is fair to say Kellis has not hosted as raucous a basketball crowd in a long time
"It was a great atmosphere tonight and I'm glad we have this game back and look forward to it next year," Stinson said.
#WestValleyPreps @drew_camacho21 drives and dishes to Tay Bloomer to make it 37-27 Panthers late in the 2nd.— Richard Smith (@RsmithYWV) December 4, 2021
Halftime @PeoriaBoysBball 41@KellisHoops 31
Ruiz has 14 but came down hard on his hip with a smack heard through the arena. Hopefully he’s ok. Bearden 13p 6r. Bass 11p pic.twitter.com/nR9nJPKJg3
In the first half of the doubleheader, these schools played their first varsity girls basketball game in nearly six years. It featured the same regular pressure defense from both teams, though not the conversions of layups on the offensive end.
But both teams entered winless and determined to change that. Peoria had more success in part because it had at least an inside-outside combination to anchor its offense in the 42-32 win.
Junior center Britany Kogbara dominated the paint with 20 points and 19 rebounds, adding six steals to lead the team in three categories. Senior guard Samantha Thomas was not accurate from long range, but her four made treys and 15 points was enough to keep the Cougars defense honest.
"The first couple of months for us has been practice a couple days, COVID case and we're shut down. Practice a couple of days, another COVID case. We didn't get to play Thanksgiving weekend. We had three practices and then we got to play three games this week," first-year Peoria coach RaShawn Calvert said. "We're trying to gel, building that trust and chemistry. Tonight I think we took our first step. Our defense was our offense and that's what put us over the top today."
Kogbara took over in the third quarter, scoring 10 of the Panthers' first 11 points as her team went from trailing 16-15 at halftime to leading 26-19.
Junior guard Bianca Ortiz led Kellis with 11 points and hit a three late in the third quarter to cut her team's deficit to 29-27. A pair of her free throws in the fourth cut it back to one at 32-31.
With 1:19 remaining, however, Kogbara stole a pass in the backcourt drove 75 feet and scored. Peoria led 37-32 and was not challenged in the final minute.
"I think it's going to carry us a lot next week. We've needed some sort of positivity in our program. To come out with a rivalry and get a win, it's not only going to carry us into the games. We have a practice in the morning," Calvert said Dec. 3.
#WestValleyPreps Kogbara puts the game away with this steal and coast to coast layup after Kellis inbounded trailing 35-32 with 1:19 left— Richard Smith (@RsmithYWV) December 4, 2021
Final @HighPeoria 42@KellisGBB 32
Kogbara finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds and 7 blocks. Thomas added 15 . Bianca Ortiz led Kellis w 11 pic.twitter.com/s0DgzgdYfN
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