Sunnyslope Reigns Supreme Over Apollo

by Justin Vargas | Posted on Sunday, January 14th, 2018

The much anticipated 5A State Championship rematch would go down at Sunnyslope High School on Tuesday night, as the Vikings hosted their North Phoenix rivals, the Apollo Hawks, led by top-150 ranked recruit, 6-foot-7 junior wing Emmanuel Taban.

Apollo would come into the contest with revenge on their minds, after falling just short of a State Championship in double over-time last season.  Sunnyslope would try to prove that they are still the head of the class, in front of their home crowd.

Slope would get off to a fast start with their usual offensive flow and great ball movement, while suffocating Apollo on the defensive end.

Sunnyslope’s 5-foot-11 senior guard Jaran Whitfield would hit a 3-pointer, with just over 3 minutes to go in the opening quarter to make it 13-4.  The Vikings' senior leader Kyle Fischer would make his usual impact early, as he hit a gut-punch of a 3-pointer to end the quarter, and give his team a commanding 21-7 lead, as he chipped in 9 first quarter points.

Sunnyslope’s defense continued their defensive storm on Taban in the early minutes of the 2nd quarter, as they wouldn’t allow the talented junior to breathe, much less dribble the basketball.

However, the Hawks would try to show some life as their 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Ezekial Thompkins got a tough and-1 lay-up to go to bring them to within 11.  Apollo would turn the pressure up full-court and make Sunnyslope a bit uncomfortable, as they started to uncharacteristically turn the ball over.

Nevertheless, Coach Ray Portela’s Vikings would show their moxie, and get a big 3-ball to go from their 5-foot-11 senior guard Abayev Allan - just as momentum was starting to shift in the opponent’s favor.

The game would start to look like a little bit of a rugby match midway thru the 2nd quarter, as bodies would start to hit the deck at a rapid rate - with both teams fighting for every loose ball.

Apollo’s 6-foot-3 talented freshman guard Paris Woods would get a transition lay-up off a steal and half-court pass from Taban, to get the deficit to within single digits for the first time, since the early minutes of the 1st quarter.

But Slope’s rough-and-rugged 6-foot-5 senior forward Chris Orozco would answer, and get a bucket to go just before the buzzer to make it 28-17 going into the half.

What little bit of offensive flow the Vikings lost late in the first half, returned coming out of the locker room, as Fischer would deliver a picture-perfect bounce pass to Whitfield - giving them a 32-17 lead early in the 3rd quarter.  The very next possession, Fischer would be the beneficiary of a beautiful bounce pass, as Orozco would hit him in stride on a strong back-door cut to the rim, giving their team a dominating lead.  Slope looked to runaway in the 3rd quarter, as Allan would drain another deep-ball to give them a 20-point lead, with under 4 minutes to go in the 3rd.

Apollo would continue to battle, behind their gritty 5-foot-9 junior guard Gabriel Nyawumenya.  After nailing a nice mid-range jumper off the dribble, he would deliver a nice transition feed to 6-foot-1 sophomore guard Jaylen Glover to get them back to within 12 points with just under 2 minutes to go in the period.

Slope would get back-to-back buckets to end the quarter to push their lead to 16 going into the final session.

Apollo would begin to show their frustration early in the 4th, as Fischer would hit them for 3-straight buckets - keeping Apollo at bay and giving the Vikings a 19-point lead with 3 minutes to go in the game.

Slope would take the air out of the ball in the final 2 minutes and drift to a 70-56 win, behind Fischer’s 25 points and Orozco’s 14 points and 8 boards.  Taban, who battled a little early foul trouble, finished with 20 points.

Sunnyslope is one of the most disciplined and well-coached team in the state.  It seems they always find a way to get a bucket when momentum seems to be shifting, and in the last 5 seconds of a quarter.  When they are engaged, their defensive intensity is nothing short of impressive. Fischer’s basketball IQ and his fundamentals are a thing of beauty to watch.  He can put up 30 with ease and not seem to break a sweat doing it.  Orozco is a straight, junkyard dog.  If there is a tougher player in the state, you are going to have to show him to me before I believe it.

While most people know about the nationally recruited Taban, Apollo has themselves a freshman with some tools and poise in Paris Woods.  He will be one to watch moving forward in the next coming years, no doubt!

These two teams will lace their shoes up again against each other on January 30th at Apollo’s house.  Apollo will need a better showing in that one, if they hope to knock off the Vikings.

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