Moon Valley Escapes Past Peoria In OT Thriller

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

The Moon Valley Rockets (19-4) would take on one of their Westside Rivals, the Peoria Panthers (16-7) on Monday night. Moon Valley would come into the game on a hot 11-game winning streak, as Peoria had won their last 3 games since their last loss to Moon Valley at home.

The two teams are really one of the more even match-ups you will see this season.  Both teams are fast and athletic and can get out and run.  Both have long, lanky guys that block shots and rebound well despite their thin frames.  They both have guards that can push the tempo and handle the rock effortlessly.  Both play extremely hard and put you in the pressure cooker on defense.  Peoria would come in off the bus trying to repay the Rockets on their home floor.

Moon Valley would set the tone right off the opening tip with a 3-pointer by 6-foot-2 junior guard DeMarco Jenkins. The Rockets’ star 6-foot-7 forward Jok Jok would send Peoria’s 6-foot-5 senior forward Knot Anyieth’s shot sailing to the sidelines to get the hometown crowd going.

But the Panther’s 6-foot-7 power forward John Price would clap back with a beautiful drop step in the lane to finally get his team on the board 2 minutes into the opening quarter. Peoria was all over the glass early, as 6-foot-4 senior wing Lahad Adeim would clean up a missed shot to give them a 4-point advantage with 4 minutes left in the 1st. Adeim would come back on the next possession with a 3-ball to make it 11-4 in the Panthers direction.

Peoria’s 6-foot-5 junior forward Nisaj Nickolis would stuff a Jok dunk attempt and get their section in the stands going. Moon Valley tried to get back in gear with a back door cut by Jok, as he would finish with a high-flying 2-handed flush to get his team back to within 3 with 2 minutes left on the clock. The quarter would end with Peoria up 11-8.

Moon Valley would open the quarter grinding out 3 offensive rebounds in one possession that would end with a 3-pointer by 6-foot-3 senior guard Gabe Lee to take back the lead.

The two would trade turns gaining and losing the lead for most of the 2nd quarter until Peoria would rip off a 7-0 run to take a 22-18 lead with just over a minute left in the half.

Moon Valley’s 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Trent Hudgens would hit a 3 to get them back to within 1 with 40 seconds to go until halftime. But Peoria’s 5-foot-10 junior guard Kaleb Brown would pickpocket Jok at half-court like he was walking through an alley way in Brooklyn and pulled up in transition with a mid-range jumper to give the Panthers a 24-21 lead going into the locker rooms.
Both squads would come out in the second half cold as some frozen leftovers, going scoreless for the first 2 ½ minutes of the second half until Hudgens got a bucket to go in traffic to bring them to within 1 with 5 and a half minutes left in the 3rd.

Hudgens would continue to make his presence felt, bringing some serious intensity on the defensive end midway thru the 3rd period, harassing Peoria’s guards at half-court. Another strong drive to the rack by Hudgens would give them back a 1-point lead with a minute and a half left on the clock.

However, Peoria’s 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Isaac Monroe would get the lead back for them with a corner 3 at the buzzer to make it 34-32 going into the final quarter.

Both teams came out in Desert Storm mode with bodies hitting the deck and bloody noses being passed out. Anyieth would get a 3-pointer to drop to give his team a 39-34 lead with 5:40 to go. But Lee’s transition lay-up would bring the Rockets back to within 2 with 4 minutes to play.

Adiem would answer on the very next possession with a tough runner to make it 42-38. Peoria’s guards were on the ball defensively like some rabid pitbulls, making it hard for Moon Valley to even get the ball inside the 3-point line.

However, Jok would step up with a huge 3-pointer with 1:25 left to go to get MV back to within 1. But Kaleb Brown would answer back with a 3 of his own to stretch the lead back to 4.

Peoria would go up by 4 with a minute left to play but would squander it as Hodgens would put 2 Peoria defenders on skates and draw a foul with just 33 ticks left in the regulation and would hit them both.

Then Moon Valley would have a defensive breakdown as Peoria beat an unnecessary press, but Jok, as the last line of defense, would save the Rockets with a huge blocked shot that led to Lee getting out into transition to draw a foul. He would split the pair and then commit a foul trying to go for the offensive board on the miss to put Anyieth on the line.

Anyieth would split the pair as well, as Hodgens would hustle to the rebound and draw a foul with under 10 seconds to go in the game. He would come up big and can them both to knot it all up at 48.

Jok would get his second game-saving block in the last 45 seconds of the 4th quarter on a corner 3-point attempt by Adiem to send the game into OT.

While Peoria would strike first in the open period, Jok would answer by putting Adiem on rollerblades and hitting a floater off the glass to tie the game back up with 2:40 left. With 1:20 to go, Jok would get multiple Peoria defenders in the air on a head-fake and kiss the lay-up off the glass to get the Rockets their first lead since the 3rd quarter.

However, just when it looked like Moon Valley had it gift wrapped in a bag, they let Peoria in through the back door to sneak back in. With Moon Valley up by 3, Peoria would let go of a ¾ court heave that would clunk off the side of the rim as the Rockets would escape with a 57-54 win.

Jok would lead the way for the Rockets with 21 points, 8 rebounds and 7 blocked shots in a clutch, hard-fought performance.

While Jok was the star of the game, I was very impressed with the play of Moon Valley’s backcourt of Hodgens and Lee. Both are aggressive and can create their own shot, as well as a better one for teammates. While Hodgens has a little more funk with his ballhandling, Lee is the explosive one.

Moon Valley will travel to Cactus tomorrow for a back-to-back. Peoria will do the same as they travel to Sunrise Mountain.

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