Desert Vista Survives Scare From Liberty

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Friday, December 29th, 2017

The Arizona Preps staff would be on hand for the Day 2 contest between Head Coach Gino Crump’s Desert Vista Thunder (11-3) and Head Coach Mark Wood’s Liberty Lions (9-6).  After somewhat of a rough start, Liberty has looked like a whole new team since welcoming their talented 6-foot-1 junior transfer, Josh Ursery, into their line-up.  A far West Valley product that seems to be flying under the radar, to say the least.  On paper, it seemed this would be just another mark in the win column for Desert Vista who has their sights set on a 6A State Championship.  However, the underdog Liberty Lions came to play and was ready to make it a dog fight. Desert Vista would be going into the match-up without their ultra-athletic 6-foot-6 senior forward Wesley Harris, as he would be battling a groin injury and have to sit this one out.

Desert Vista’s 6-foot-8 senior center Christian Anigwe would dominate the offensive glass early against a much shorter Liberty frontcourt, scoring the first 6 points of the game.  A 3-pointer by 5-foot-7 junior point guard E.J Jackson in the corner from a Tyrek Chambers assist would be the cap of a 9-0 run to start the game for the Thunder. Back-to-back trey’s by Desert Vista 6-foot senior guard Alijah Gammage would give them a 17-2 lead with just under 4 minutes to go in the opening quarter in a dominating opening effort.

However, tides would turn to start the 2nd quarter as Liberty would battle back with a 16-6 run of their own to get to within 2 points with 6 minutes to go in the half in a very impressive comeback effort. A runner by Chambers would give DV back a 7-point lead with 4 minutes to go in the 2nd quarter, but Ursery would answer back as he would get himself a transition dunk off of a steal to get his team back to within 2 with 2 and a half minutes to go in the half.  Liberty’s 6-foot-5 senior forward Connor Ray would hit his third 3-pointer of the half to give them their first lead of the game, 39-37 with just over a minute left to go. Answering back, Anigwe would get a much needed And-1 lay-up to go with 25 seconds left on the clock and follow it up with a blocked shot on a Liberty put-back at the buzzer to end the half to send his team into the locker room with a 43-41 lead, scoring 17 points in the first half.  Not to be outdone, Liberty’s pesky 5-foot-10 senior guard Jacob Edahl would pitch in an impressive 15 points to keep his team within striking distance.

Edahl would show no signs of cooling off in the early minutes of the 2nd half, as he would connect on back-to-back 3’s to give his team a 47-43 advantage.  The talented backcourt of Chambers and Jackson for Desert Vista seemed flat out out of sync offensively, however would battle through their shooting struggles to score 8 straight points in the pain for the Thunder to regain a 3-point lead with 4 minutes and 30 seconds left in the 3rd quarter.  Ursery would put the team on his back as he would get a tough finish to go in traffic to tie the game at 54 and put a little bark at the end of the play to let the hosting Desert Vista team know he was ready for a dog fight.  Desert Vista would answer the call just before the buzzer as their 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Osasere Ighodaro would find 6-foot-1 senior guard Isiah Wilson in the corner for a 3 to give them back a 61-59 lead going into the final period.

To open the final quarter Jackson would find Anigwe for back-to-back dimes on 2 straight offensive possessions to give the Thunder a 5-point “cushion.” However, Liberty with answer as Edahl would get a tough transition lay-up to go down in the middle of a small traffic jam in the paint to tie the game at 68 with 6 minutes left in the game.  Nevertheless, Anigwe would just continue to be too much inside for the Lions.  His 31st point of the game would give them a 74-70 lead with just 4 minutes to go in the contest.

But Liberty would just not go away, led by an impressive 4th quarter performance by Ursery, as they would get to within 1 with less than 3 minutes to go.  He would try to give the Lions the lead with 6 seconds to go only to have his jumper blocked by none other than Anigwe.  A pair of free-throws would make it a 80-77 game as Desert Vista would escape the upset on their home court.

Anigwe would finish with 35 points and 15 rebounds, and what must’ve been at least 5 blocked shots. Ursery would finish with 28 points as Edahl would pitch in 24 of his own as the two would account for 52 of the teams 77 points.

Anigwe is really playing well and Desert Vista will need it, as there is no timetable for Wesley Harris’ return.  They have some real powerhouse opponents coming up after the holiday break with some tough games against Gilbert, Hamilton and Mountain Pointe on the schedule.  Chambers and Jackson will really have to get back to early season form.  The Thunder are going to need them to come up big come playoff time.  Alijah Gammage just plays the game the right way.  Very fundamentally sound and extremely coachable.  The kid just gets it!  He can shoot the ball from the outside and is always willing to make the extra pass to get his teammate the open look.

Nobody impressed me more today than Josh Ursery. He is reportedly a 3.0 student, and can bring it on the court.  The kid has some dog in him.  Very athletic with a good handle and a sweet looking outside game. He brings it on the defensive end and is not afraid to take the big shots.  He could definitely use another 10 pounds on his frame, as he goes into his senior year next year but the kid can play!  In my opinion, he is a legitimate low-mid major guard.  Arizona Preps will be doing a player profile on the under-the-radar Ursery very soon.

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