It was the biggest game of the year in Arizona high school or junior college basketball, as South Mountain Junior College hosted nationally acclaimed Hillcrest Prep Academy. It was not the two schools that drew such interest on the night, but rather the basketball stars that played in the game. The nation's #1 2018 prospect, 6-foot-10 sophomore forward Marvin Bagley and the nation's #1 2017 prospect, 6-foot-11 junior post DeAndre Ayton would face off with the ACCAC's #1 ranked prospect, 6-foot-9 sophomore post Connor MacDougall.
Bagley and Ayton are the nation's premier frontline - high school, junior college and maybe even division-I. The two elite NBA prospects stunned the basketball world when they decided to play together this fall. The two ultra-talented and imposing big men would pack the house on Tuesday evening, as an almost standing room only crowd came out to catch a glimpse of the aesome duo.
Numerous college coaches were in attendance. Assistant coach Joe Pasternack of the University of Arizona, assistant coaches Jeff Theiler and Chris Pompey of Cal-State Northridge, assistant coach Phil Beckner of the University of Nebraska, head coach Dan Majerle and assistant coaches Todd Lee and T.J. Benson of Grand Canyon University and head coach Craig Neal of the University of New Mexico were all in attendance for the evening match-up.
The game would get off to what seemed to be a huge blowout, as Hillcrest Academy would look completely imposing early in the first half. Superstar 6-foot-4 8th grader Marcus Bagley would start the game off with a three-pointer, and Bagley and Ayton would dominate the game early - enough to build an early 28-13 lead with 9:29 left in the first half.
South Mountain's Connor MacDougall would be guarded by Ayton all night. He would knock down a mid-range jumper early in the game, but would struggle to get free from Ayton early in the game. Midway through the first half, MacDougall would knock down another mid-range jumper, and then start to get to the free-throw line after drawing fould inside. MacDougall would rebound hard against the two bigger trees of Bagley and Ayton.
5-foot-11 freshman Jackson Price would get the start at the point guard position and would struggle getting his shot going early in the game for the Cougars, while the Hillcrest Academy guards, led by the play of 6-foot-3 senior guard Dontez Thomas, would help build the early Hillcrest Academy first half lead.
After consecutive baskets from 6-foot-6 sophomore wing Jamarius Clairborne, which included a three-pointer, and then back-to-back three-pointers from 6-foot-4 freshman wing Terrence Johnson, South Mountain would get to within 10 points in the first half, 39-29, with 5:41 left to play. But after a monster two-handed tip dunk by Dontez Thomas, and then a tap-in at the buzzer by Thomas, Hillcrest would jump out to a 57-43 halftime lead.
South Mountain would come out with renewed vigor in the second half, and would climb back into the game, behind the strong play of MacDougall. He would display some serious footwork inside against the bigger Ayton. MacDougall and Terrence Johnson would help South Mountain overcome a large deficit in the game's first half, to back within 6 points of Hillcrest, 76-70, with 12:03 left to play in the game. After two more baskets inside by MacDOugall, and then an offensive tap in by him, South would pull to within 4 points.
Hillcrest though would come right back after consecutive baskets by Marvin Bagley, which included a two-handed monster tip-dunk over two South players - pushing the lead back to 10 points with 9:11 left to play.
South Mountain would come back though after some sharp three-point shooting. After another three-pointer from Terrence Johnson, South Mountain would pull to within 4 points again, 99-95. But after a dunk on the break by Bagley and a layup by Dontez Thomas in transition, Hillcrest would seal the victory, 115-109.
Marvin Bagley would finish with a game-high 33 points and 8 rebounds, while Ayton would also pour in 30 points and 9 rebounds. South Mountain would be led by a team-high 31 points and 16 rebounds by Connor MacDougall, while Terrence Johnson would finish with 21 points and 7 rebounds.
Hillcrest Academy will now move on to face Eastern Arizona JC on the road in their next game, this Saturday @ 3:30PM.