By Aaron Nicholson
The Mountain Ridge Mountain Lions lost their non-conference game on the road to Brophy College Prep, 62-50. Mountain Ridge hit the road for their second straight away game in hopes of winning two games in a row. Meanwhile, Brophy was welcomed home after dropping a game on the road to Gilbert.
The game entirely was made up of runs as Brophy drew first blood in the dog fight. Brophy started the game strong, going on a 9-2 run out of the gates. Mountain Ridge had opportunities to score, but were unable to knock them down. Once Ridge called a timeout with 4:28 remaining in the quarter, Jared Rodriguez, senior and starter for Mountain Ridge, exited the game due to an apparent head injury. Immediately following Rodriguez’s departure, Ridge mustered up their own 8-3 run forcing Brophy to call a timeout with 57 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Brophy held onto a two-point lead heading into the second quarter but that was short-lived as Mountain Ridge took their first lead of the game, 16-14, with 7:22 remaining in the second quarter. Ridge found their stride by executing on their fastbreaks and getting stops at the other end. The lead rose to five when Brophy called a timeout with 3:39 remaining in the first half. Brophy quickly closed the gap and even ended the first half in style. Carlos Saucedo, senior at Brophy, beat the buzzer to cut Mountain Ridge’s lead to one. Though Ridge led 25-24 at intermission, Saucedo’s buzzer-beater gave them some momentum.
After roughly 16 [game] minutes of rest and evaluation by Brophy’s athletic trainer, Rodriguez managed to return for the start of the third. Ridge came out flat in the third, letting bad passes and a 10-second violation stymie their offense. Brophy, again, went on a run late in third rattling of a 7-0 push, causing Mountain Ridge to call a timeout, down 36-30 late in the third quarter.
Out of the timeout, Ridge ran a play designed for Rodriguez to get a three; sure enough, he ran the baseline, popped out, ran off of two screens and hit the open trey, cutting the lead to three with a minute left in the third. After a stop at the other end, Tanner Ray, junior at Mountain Ridge, beat the buzzer with a baseline step-back to cut the lead to one heading into the final frame.
This is where Mountain Ridge seemed to have lost their focus. After a couple missed opportunities at the rim and some turnovers down the stretch for Ridge, Brophy capitalized. Jaxson Baker, junior at Brophy, nailed two back-to-back threes on possessions following Ridge’s missed layups. This sparked a 16-4 run by Brophy, forcing Ridge to call a timeout when the lead ballooned to 13 points with 3:35 remaining in the game.
After the timeout, Ridge was rejuvenated and even forced Brophy to call a timeout to avoid a five-second inbounding violation. Though Ridge outscored Brophy 11-10 in the last three minutes, it was not enough.
When asked about the late-game run, Brophy head coach Matt Hooten praised the offense for their ability to score.
“I thought one of the things that happened was we started to be able to get those looks underneath,” Hooten said. “[As] soon as we go those looks underneath and started finishing inside, [Ridge] were able to collapse a little bit defensively which opened up … we had more space to take those shots at that point.”
Mountain Ridge head coach Eli Lopez faulted the defensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter for the loss.
“We let one of their shooters have too many open looks and he knocked them down,” Lopez said. “Brophy’s a good team and you can’t get down like that that late in the game.”
Mountain Ridge will host Chandler High School on Friday night. Lopez explains what he knows about the Chandler Wolves and what it means for his team.
“They’re quick, they’re physical and they have kids who can play the game,” Lopez said. “It’s going to be a big test for us tomorrow night.”