Salpointe-Foothills 4A State Semi-Final Preview

by Ben Hansen | Posted on Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

Tuesday night’s 4A State Semi-Final matchup between the No. 3 seed Catalina Foothills Falcons (25-2) and No. 2 Salpointe Catholic Lancers (28-1) is the unofficial Tucson city championship, as it is the rubber match between the two teams, each of whom has defeated the other already. The game is scheduled to tip-off at 7pm at Salpointe.

In the first game between these two teams, back on January 21 at Foothills, the Falcons won by three points, 70-67 on their home floor. The rematch – 18 days later (February 7) at Salpointe – saw the Lancers pull out a physical, defensive battle, winning 48-39. It’s worth noting that Foothills was missing two of its best players in the second game, as junior big man Will Menaugh (6-foot-10, 245-pound junior center) struggled with flulike symptoms and senior guard Hayden Moser had a nagging ankle injury.

“Salpointe played good defense,” said Doug D’Amore, head coach at Foothills. “We had a five-point lead with five (minutes)to play and then we had some mental errors they capitalized on. Will was coming back from being sick for three days and still no Hayden, but (Salpointe) played great and were very tough physically.”

The two teams are very different from one another. For example, Salpointe only has one player taller than 6’5” and instead relies upon its trio of senior guards – Evan Nelson, Jordan Gainey & Grant Weitman – who combine to average 45.6 points per game, or 60 percent of Salpointe’s entire team scoring output of 76.2 ppg.

Nelson (pictured), who is signed to play at Harvard next season, is especially dangerous. He has already eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier for his career and is capable of big games, as evidenced by the two 36-point outbursts he had over a three-day span as a sophomore in February 2018. To their credit, though, the Falcons have kept Nelson in check in two gams this season, limiting him to just 28 points on 10 of 27 field goals, including 1 of 10 three-pointers combined.

Meanwhile, Foothills is a deep and balanced team without a go-to scorer. In fact, six different Falcons have led the team in scoring through 27 games. D’Amore, who learned the game from his late father, Big Doug – a local legend on Tucson’s far northwest side – has a system that incorporates a  playing rotation that runs eight deep, six of whom are set to return next season, including four starters.

So, essentially, this is a matchup of a senior-laden Salpointe trying to win the state title finally after losing each of the past two years to Mike Bibby’s dynasty at Shadow Mountain, versus a young Foothills program that figures to be around for the next few years. Top-seeded Peoria may be the favorite, but both of the remaining Tucson teams are a legitimate threat to win the 4A State Championship on Saturday in Phoenix. No Tucson school has won a 4A-6A “Big Schools” state championship since Amphi captured the 4A crown in 2011.

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