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Alchesay outraces Paradise Honors to 2A finals

Posted 2/23/18

Richard Smith

West Valley Preps

All year, Paradise Honors boys basketball rolled over 2A opponents like a black and blue wave, pressing, running and dunking with more athleticism, length and …

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Alchesay outraces Paradise Honors to 2A finals


Richard Smith

West Valley Preps

All year, Paradise Honors boys basketball rolled over 2A opponents like a black and blue wave, pressing, running and dunking with more athleticism, length and speed than any small school could handle.

In Friday afternoon's 2A state semifinal at Prescott Valley Events Center, another team with one loss was able to turn the tide. In the second and third quarters, No. 3 Whiteriver Alchesay got comfortable with the Panthers' size and vertical game, and began to spread out the Surprise squad.

The Falcons unleashed a light blue wave of their own, spurred on by nearly 5,000 fans from the Apache reservation. In a game of two teams racing headlong to the rim, Alchesay finished a few more layups and made several more threes to book a return trip to the state title game with a 67-61 win.

"It means the world to these kids. It's something they love and something they grew up doing. They all grew up together, went to school together and played on the playground together. We come from a small community and it means that much more to them. Not taking away from Paradise Honors, which is a wonderful family, team and school," Alchesay coach Kyle Goklish said. "We're from a small reservation in Northern Arizona where there is not too many things. Basketball is the one positive highlight. People are able to go to a game and enjoy these kids, who play their hearts out on the court."

No. 2 Paradise Honors (28-2) looked overwhelming in the opening minutes, taking a 10-3 lead as senior wings Sohn Sims and Ian Jackson got to the rim with ease.

While the rest of his team looked lost to start, the one Falcons rotation player above 6 feet tall kept his team in the game. Senior forward Harley Upton handled and drove like a guard, hit a three and finished his layups from nearly every angle, scoring Alchesay's first 10 points.

The Panthers led 16-11 after a quarter. But Alchesay (33-1) switched tactics in the second quarter, keying on a matchup.

Since they operate almost exclusively without a traditional post, the Falcons could draw Panthers big man Jared Perry out to cover a guard. Initially, he was hidden defensively on the lowest scoring starter, senior guard Jerron Daley. Then Daley got the ball at the top of the key to start the second quarter and scored two straight buckets.

"We never planned to get up and press them too much," Paradise Honors coach Zach Hettel said. We talked about that. We weren't going to shoot a lot of threes because our advantage was inside. You saw that early and then we got in foul trouble. Ian Jackson and Sohn picked up two fouls. Jon Jackson did a hell of a job."

Still, his team maintained a five-point lead as junior forward Josh Hawkins got loose. For most of the second quarter, both teams simply inbounded the ball and broke for the basket as fast as they could.

Behind 28-23, Alchesay closed the half on a 11-2 run to grab a halftime lead. Senior Tyreck Cosay tied it at 30 with a three-point shot.

They took the air out of the ball after that, creating maximum space for drives when the Panthers pressed up. Upton converted on an up-and-under scoop to take the lead and Daley drove for a bucket with 5 seconds on the clock.

"I really think our schedule helped us. We were able to face a couple opponents in the upper division, so I think that helped give us experience facing that length," Goklish said. "I think (Harley) is the diamond in the rough in this state that nobody has heard about yet. I'd put him up there with the top 10. He can handle the ball, shoot from outside and his ability to get in the paint and finish in his unique ways ... I haven't seen anybody get to the basket and have that much finesse around the bucket."

Paradise Honors senior guard Ian Jackson goes up for a layup against the defense of Alchesay senior Jerron Daley during Friday's 2A basketball semifinal/ [Les Stukenberg/For West Valley Preps][/caption]Perry scored on a feed from Jackson to start the second half, but struggled most of the night with aggressive double teams. When he did break through, a good deal of his layups just rimmed out.

That was common problem for Paradise Honors, particularly in the decisive second and third quarters. Combine that with two made three pointers — both in the final minute of play — and that's a problem.

Threes by senior guard San Juan Slick and junior guard Kellen Parish extended the Falcons' lead to six. Daley scored and Cosay made a pair of free throws to cut the lead to 10.

Hettel's team changed the matchup, taking Perry out and playing freshman point guard Jalen Scott with four wings. Scott scored two baskets before one of those wings was clipped.

Sims was leading his team with nine points when he took off downcourt trying to chase down a outlet pass to Upton. Sims fell on Upton, fouling him and tweaking his own knee.

"We had tons of great looks. They got away with a lot on Jared and it got to him a little bit," Hettel said. "We haven't shot in this gym. Alchesay played a heck of a game but I've got to try and find a way to get an opportunity to shoot in an arena before we play a team that's shot twice in it. I've got to see what strings I can pull with the AIA. It's a big difference between an arena and a high school gym."

Alchesay took a 46-40 advantage into the fourth quarter. Upton finished another reverse, but Ian Jackson and Hawkins finished the Panthers' lone dunk to cut the lead to 48-45.

However, Cosay hit a pair of backbreaking treys, the second giving the Falcons a nine-point lead.

"He hit those two threes at a point when we were trading buckets and that helped us get a little bit more cushion at the right time in the game. It really brought our 'sixth man' into play every time one of our kids hit a three," Goklish said. "We talked to the team and basically said we're playing a mirror image of ourselves. We practice against the press because we want to press."

From there, Alchesay's guards were in control, winding down the clock and making their free throws. Sophomore Alex Van Dyke came in late and made his only three to make the score 65-61, but by that point only 10 seconds remained.

Van Dyke and junior Charlie Rogers served as designated shooters in the final minute. Senior Dashawn Davis-Mays saw some spot minutes on defense. But junior Jon Jackson was the only Panthers reserve to see significant minutes, as senior guards JJ Ramirez and Junior Madore were not available.

"We never planned to get up and press them too much," Hettel said. "We were deep coming into this season and had a couple things happen and we lost a couple guys that are normally our 7 and 8 off the bench. We weren't as deep as we like to be. Maybe normally we could throw a lot of bodies on the floor and run at their speed. But at the same time I've watched (Alchesay) on film and they finish so well.

"For us it was trying to stay in front of them and trying to hold them to one shot and if they make it over us they make it over us. To their credit, they shot the crap out of the ball. We didn't finish and they did. They've been (this far in the tournament) before and we haven't."

Hettel said he was proud of his team's effort in a game that was full tilt for more than 20 minutes. Effort has been the foundation of this team, which was somewhat thrown together this summer.

Perry and Sims were the senior leaders. Then Arizona Charter Academy closed its high school last spring — and Hawkins, the Jackson brothers and Davis-Mays arrived.

Developing chemistry took time. But once it happened, this team built a tight bond and pushed this young school to unprecedented athletic heights.

"I told my guys to enjoy it. Even the guys that go to play in college, I don't know if they'll play in front of 5,000 fans," Hettel said. "All you have to do is go back there and look at them to see what it meant to them. They're in tears and they're upset. I'm not trying to be cliche but these guys are the tightest group I've ever been around. These guys are so close to each other."

Paradise Honors freshman guard Jalen Scott puts his hands over his head as Alchesay celebrates its victory in the 2A basketball semifinals Friday at Prescott Valley Events Center. [Les Stukenberg/For West Valley Preps][/caption]


Paradise Honors  16 14  10  21 – 61

Alchesay              11  23  12  21 – 67


Paradise Honors – Joshua Hawkins 15 points, Ian Jackson 14 points, Sohn Sims 11 points, Jalen Scott 8 points, Jared Perry 6 points, Jon Jackson 4 points, Alex Van Dyke 3 points.

Alchesay – Harley Upton 19 points, Tyreck Cosay 15 points, Kellen Parrish 11 points, Jerron Daley 8 points, San Juan Slick 7 points, Shayne Stover 4 points, Raekwon Cosay 2 points, Greggory Dazen 1 point.