Sunnyslope Cruises Into 5A Final

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

The first game of the 2018 AIA semifinals would be between Sunnyslope (25-5) and Centennial (17-13) at Wells Fargo Arena on Tuesday late afternoon. Slope, the defending 5A champions, would come in with all the confidence in the world having been there and done that. After all, they were returning with the same roster that won the whole thing for them last season. This would all be brand new for the Centennial Coyotes, the first time any player on their roster had seen the Final Four and played on this big of a high school stage.

The game would get out to almost a pedestrian start, with both teams trying to find their footing on the offensive end early on. Slope would come out of the gates uncharacteristically missing easy scoring opportunities and failing to be aggressive.

Centennial’s 6-foot-5 senior wing Koby Jones would finally get them on the board with almost 6 minutes already ticked off the clock in the opening quarter.

Sunnyslope’s 6-foot-5 senior forward Chris Orozco would get a touch and-1 left-handed hook to kiss off the glass with only 6 seconds left in the 1st to make it 9-4 to end the period.

It would be Orozco making things happen again for the Vikings as he would hit the first bucket of the 2nd quarter with a pretty right-handed hook inside to stretch the lead to 7. Slope would start to cruise a little bit  behind the play of their 6-foot-4 senior wing Kyle Fischer.  Meanwhile, they would stay their usually greedy selves on the defensive end. They would also continue to kill them on the offensive glass, limiting Centennial’s offensive touches.

Both squads would go scoreless in the last 3 1/2 minutes of the 2nd quarter. Nevertheless, the Vikings would take a 12-point lead into the half, holding the Coyotes to only 6 points in the first half.

Both teams would come out of the 2nd half trading 3-point buckets, as Jones looked to find his shot early in the second half with his second 3-ball in under a minute of play to get his team back to within 11 with 5 and a half minutes to go in the 3rd quarter.

Centennial would hold Sunnyslope to only 6 3rd quarter points, but still would fall into the final period down 24-15.

Sunnyslope’s 6-foot-3 junior guard Ivan Palomar would soar in for a put-back off of a Fischer miss a minute into the 4th to push the lead to 13.

However, Centennial would try to go into a frantic full court press midway through the quarter, but Slope is just flat-out too disciplined to commit turnovers and allow the Coyotes to get back into it.

Slope would spend the majority of the 4th quarter clogging the lane inside and forcing the athletes of Centennial into jump shots, as they were unable to convert any challenged looks.

With a minute and a half remaining, Orozco would find a cutting Jaran Whitfield wide-open underneath the basket to sel the win, cruising into the state finale, 42-29.

While Sunnyslope handled Centennial almost with ease, they did not have the usual “Slope” performance. The team as a whole blew a bunch of easy bunnies and missed on a number of open scoring opportunities from the perimeter. While they are always solid on the defensive end, they will need to pick it up in their next game, whether it be heavily favored Deer Valley or Paradise Valley.


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