The game reached a point where the final score mattered little compared to what was being accomplished on the floor.
For the record, No. 5 Mountain Pointe handled No. 12 Skyline easily, 88-56, on Tuesday in the first round of the 6A Conference playoffs.
The Pride blew open a competitive game with a 32-point third quarter to take any suspense about the outcome, but not the significance of what the Coyotes were doing until the final buzzer.
Skyline played in its first state playoff game in program history. The players on the court throughout the game were underclassmen. Every minute of the game meant additional experience for a program on the rise.
“We’re young,” third-year coach James Capriotti said. “This year we lived and died with our two shooters. We got cold and that’s going to happen. To beat Mountain Pointe you have to play perfect. If you turn the ball over and miss layups it goes from a tie game to a nine-point game in a hurry.
“We don’t have our heads down. These kids have set the program up for success as we go forward. We are not the Skyline of old anymore.”
That certainly wasn’t the case in the first quarter when the Coyotes (14-13) built a 17-11 lead on the shooting of freshman Patrick Herrera and senior Ethan Wallace before settling on a 22-20 advantage after one.
Then the fifth-ranked Pride (24-3) settled in as Khalid Price took over with a 17-point quarter including five 3-pointers as Mountain Pointe went into halftime with a 10-point lead.
The way the half ended didn’t help Skyline’s cause, either.
The Pride held the ball for the last minute-and-half and Skyline didn’t engage them defensively, so no five-second call was started. The Skyline crowd started getting restless and the Pride side followed suit.
With eight seconds left, the Pride offense was set in motion. A 3-point attempt was blocked but the Pride got a putback buzzer beater for the 10-point advantage.
“We were good with eight points and getting the ball to start the second half,” Capriotti said. “We played good D, got the block but they got the loose ball and the basket.”
It was a bit disheartening for a young team, but not a knockout blow by any means.
“That hurt a little bit going into halftime, but we were fine in the locker room and were ready to come back out,” Herrera said. “We’re trying to figure out our way, being the first time in the playoffs. We battled but it is hard going against a team that big. They have a lot of good players.”
Skyline will take all it accomplished this year – a winning record, winning a play-in game on the road, qualifying for the playoffs – and use it as a foundation for building the program to new heights.
“It built a hunger inside us,” said Dayton Harris, who is Capriotti’s stepson and Hamilton coach Doug Harris’ son. “We will be back, and we will be better.”
Capriotti seconded that sentiment after seeing the program begin to change over the summer.
“At the end of this summer I started to see the kids buy in,” he said. “We had a freshman step up and we rode him, but there are no superstars. It is just going to get better and lot of good things will be coming out of Skyline in the years to come.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to email@example.com.
Mountain Pointe 88, Skyline 56
Sky 22 9 17 8-56
MP 20 21 32 13-88
Skyline (14-13) – Jackson 2-4-8, Harris 4-2-10, Herrera 5-0-14, Moore 2-0-4, Wallace 7-0-16. TOTALS: 20-6-56.
Mountain Pointe (24-3) – Henry 4-0-8, Price 9-0-24, Cash 4-0-11, Hunter 2-0-4, Thomas 1-0-2, LaBrarche 2-2-6, Pate 5-0-15, Graham 7-0-14. TOTALS: 34-2-88.