As if the legend could actually grow any bigger fro Pinnacle High School's ultra-gifted and talented 6-foot-3 senior guard and McDonald's All-American Nico Mannion (University of Arizona signee). Well, on Friday evening, if actually did. Without the services of sharp-shooting senior teammates Trent Brown (ankle injury) and also Jordan Mains (knee injury), who has missed the entire season, Mannion would need to turn in another epic performance to help his team overcome a visiting and game Chaparral team.
Chaparral (18-7) came into Friday evening's match-up, looking to avenge their earlier season loss to Pinnacle at home (70-86). A win over Pinnacle would give Chaparral the confidence they need heading into the 6A state playoffs - allowing them to get over the hump and put them in position to win a state title.
Mannion and his Pinnacle (22-3) teammates though would have a different idea on Friday evening. While it seems to have been difficult for Arizona high school games and competition this season to bring the best out of Mannion, certain match-ups have. The challenge of winning this game without the serious help added from having Trent Brown and, of course, Mains on the floor with him, would give Mannion the focus he needed to get up for this game, and he absolutely did.
After scoring an impressive 10 of his team's first 14 points of the game. Mannion would finish with a ridiculous game-high 31 points in the game's first half. Mannion would play every minute of the contest for Pinnacle, in an attempt to match up with the talented Chaparral group.
Chaparral Head Coach Dan Peterson got what he probably has been looking for all season - a game where his two top senior performers, 6-foot-6 senior guard/forward Alec Bryan (University of Chicago commit) and 6-foot-4 senior guard/forward Blaise Threatt would both go off at the same time, in the same game. This would definitely be the game, as Bryan would pour in a team-high 32 points in the game, and Threatt would go off for 28 points of his own.
With just second remaining in the contest, Threatt would go to the free-throw line after being fouled. Threatt would come up big time for Chaparral, and calmly sink both free-throws to tie the game for his team at 88 all.
Then, as he has done all season, Mannion would inbound the basketball from the complete other end of the court, and travel the length of the floor with just seconds left in the game, only to stop on a dime and rise up over several defenders at the buzzer - making a three-pointer at the buzzer, and giving Pinnacle the 91-88 victory.
Mannion would finish with a jaw-dropping game-high 57 points of his team's 91-point effort in the win. As the Pinnacle crowd and fans rushed the court after the game winner, all I could think about is how much this young man will be missed after this year's high school season, as he has brought so much more national respect to our state throughout his young basketball career.