The exciting Hoop Hall West event is in full action now, especially after Thursday night's games, which included several really good match-ups on the evening to kickstart this year's event in Arizona. While our staff has marveled this pre-season at the parity between the state's top teams, this year's Hoop Hall West waited no time bringing some of the state's top teams together - matching them up for full head-to-head competition. These match-ups in this year's event have done my job for me early in the season - proving just how good each program is, by matching them up with each other.
This was definitely the case on Thursday evening at the Hoop Hall, as our #2 ranked program, Sunnyslope High School, faced our #3 ranked Millennium Tigers in a very exciting match-up. The Hoop Hall also matched up two more of our Top 10 pre-season teams with Desert Mountain High School facing Notre Dame Prep. Two amazing match-ups that would help us to determine our future team rankings, as we continue to move forward in the season. These two big-time match-ups so early in the new high school season created an amazing atmosphere that was almost surreal on Thursday evening @ The Hoop Hall. Both games would not disappoint either, as both games would have exciting finishes and lead to overtime victories - proving that it is going to be a great high school basketball season in Arizona.
In the first game between two state powers in Sunnyslope and Millennium, both programs are looking to compete for the Open Division State Championship this high school season. This early season contest between two of the state's elite teams gave a resemblance to big time college basketball, which is always filled with highly ranked teams facing each other during the season. Arizona high school basketball has not been known for many of these types of match-ups so early in the season, so this year's Hoop Hall event made it possible.
While the match-up was so highly anticipated, both teams would struggle to create an atmosphere that would support the hype for the game, as the play was sloppy and both teams struggled to score the basketball early in the contest. Almost everyone on the floor seemed to struggle offensively early, as Sunnyslope would lead 10-8 after the first period.
One player on the floor though would get it going early, as Millennium's talented 6-foot-3 senior guard Sabien Cain (Cal-State Northridge Signee) would finish with 6 points in the first period. Cain would come out very aggressive offensively in the contest, the most aggressive I have seen him. Cain's glaring confidence in the game and the aggression he played with would prove to be the difference in this game.
Sunnyslope would take a 23-24 lead at the half, behind 10 first half points from 6-foot-4 sophomore Rider Portela and 8 points from terrific freshman point guard Delton Prescott. Prescott is one of the state's elite young talents, and he would prove in this big-time contest, as he would turn in a strong introductory performance for himself.
In the game's second half, after a Sunnyslope lead throughout the entire contest, Millennium would storm back behind the strong play of Sabien Cain. The Cal-State Northridge signee would play inspired basketball on both ends of the floor to bring his team back. Cain's defensive intensity and playing the passing lanes would result in several key steals by him late, which he converted offensively. 6-foot-7 star sophomore Cameron Holmes would also get it going in the second half, after a lackluster performance for himself in the game's first half. Holmes would injure his ankle with 13.7 seconds left to play in the third period, and Sunnyslope leading 37-31. Holmes would return to the game.
After back-to-back steals by Sabien Cain, he would score a basket inside with a minute remaining, and Sunnyslope leading 53-50. On the next possession, Cain would then get another steal for his team and then knock down a big three-pointer to tie the game with :14 seconds left to play in regulation. Sunnyslope would not convert in the final seconds and the game would go into overtime.
Cain would continue his heroics in the overtime. Cain would knock down a 25-foot three-pointer, and then after a rebound, travel the length of the floor, before dishing the basketball to Cam Holmes for a nice two-handed dunk to put Millennium ahead 58-53. Millennium would go on to win the exciting contest 65-62 over Sunnyslope, who led for much of the game. Cain would finish with a game-high 27 points in the victory for Millennium, while Delton Prescott would lead Sunnyslope with 18 points, and Rider Portela would finish with 17.
This game will have serious weight on our future Team Rankings for the state's top teams, as Millennium will now likely move into our #1 spot in the rankings. Let's see what the remainder of the weekend has in store for us.