Being undermanned in Oregon made for a rough road trip for the Red Mountain boys basketball team.
The Mountain Lions went 1-3 before Christmas at the Capitol City Classic as they played most of it without three starters.
It meant Red Mountain coach Chris Lemon had to dig deeper into his bench, create a wider rotation and gives additional minutes to players who otherwise wouldn’t get many.
“The good part was it created some additional depth,” Lemon said. “We gave some players a chance to show what they could do and now they’ll be more prepared later in the season if we need them.”
Later in the season came on Friday when Kai Murphy led the Mountain Lions’ 88-83 win over Chaparral at Mountain View for the VisitMesa Basketball Challenge.
Murphy, a sophomore, didn’t get off the bench in the season opener, but has gradually gained more playing time and will probably get even more minutes after hitting two second-half 3-pointers and grabbed a lose ball with the game tied at 79.
Lemon took a timeout once Murphy got control and after Timmy Allen made two free throws on the ensuing possession the Mountain Lions (10-6) never trailed again.
“At first, I didn’t play at all, so I had to show what I could do in practice,” said Murphy, who is the son of former Arizona State baseball coach Pat Murphy. “It was a team effort to get the win, but it felt good to knock down some shots.”
The Mountain Lions were 7 of 16 from 3-point on the game thanks to the inside presence of Timmy Allen (31 points, seven rebounds, four assists) and Andre Harris (29 points, nine rebounds).
“When we are getting double teamed we have to find the guys (on the perimeter),” Harris said. “They made the shots and that’s big for us when they can do that.”
Harris had a strong move on the baseline with the game tied at 81 to give Red Mountain the lead for good.
“I knew I could beat him, so I went for it,” Harris said. “It was a close game, and we had to score there.”
The Mountain Lions erased a 10-point first-half deficit, let a 10-point lead dissipate in the second-half and pulled out a win while still playing without Quincy Reece.
By the time they play their final game in the VMBC on Saturday, it will mark their eighth game in a 12-day span.
They haven’t had much rest and zero practice time in nearly two weeks. With that said, Lemon is content with where the team stands in his first year back with the program – first as a head coach – after coaching Mesquite the last two years.
“We are in a good spot,” Lemon said. “We just have to get healthy. I knew some of these guys so that made the transition easier. After this we play once and then have another week off before really getting into the second half.
“It will give us a chance to correct some of our mistakes, catch our breath a little bit and prepare for the rest of the season.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Red Mountain 88, Chaparral 83
Chap 43 40–83
RM 50 38–88
Chaparral (6-9) – Gyseinovic 6-2-16, Dusell 6-6-19, Bryan 3-5-14, Pearce 2-0-4, Threatt 2-2-6, Davis 2-0-5, Burno 3-0-6, Josephs 5-1-11. TOTALS: 29-17-83
Red Mountain (10-6) – Haywood 2-2-6, Allen 7-15-31, Ballantyne 3-2-11, Padbury 1-2-5, Harris 10-8-29, Murphy 2-2-6. TOTALS: 25-31-88