It was an epic night on the campus of Pinnacle High School on Friday evening, as the two top overall programs in the state faced off with one another in front of a standing room only crowd, unlike anything ever seen before in Arizona high school basketball. The game featured some of the state's elite basketball talent, as several of the elite 2019 prospects matched up. University of Arizona-bound and superstar guard Nico Mannion and senior guard Trent Brown would lead 6A defending state champion Pinnacle High School (6-0) against the state's top overall program, three-time defending state champion Shadow Mountain High School, led by Arizona State-bound Jaelen House and Grand Canyon University signee Javon Blacksher.
First of all, if you didn't make it to the game by 6:30PM then you didn't get in, as the game's crowd reached capacity very early in the process. More than 500 people were turned away from getting into the gymnasium. While the Pinnacle gymnasium is very large and seats as many as 4,000 people, a game of this magnitude should have been held at a much bigger venue, but it definitely provided for a nice profit, as the gate had to bring in as much as $15 - $20K on the evening.
The game was hot, literally, as the fire marshal quickly showed up to take a look at the capacity crowd which generated a hot atmosphere, on and off the floor.
America's #13 ranked team, Shadow Mountain (2-1), has defiantly been the state's top basketball program for almost a decade now, as the Matadors have destroyed their competition - winning their last 72 games against Arizona competition, before they would face legendary guard Nico Mannion on Friday evening. The two teams had faced one another last season, only to see the defensive pressure of the Shadow Mountain guards provide too much for Mannion and his teammates to overcome. Friday night would be a much different feel for the Pinnacle team, as Mannion would overcome the tremendous defensive intensity of the Mike Bibby-led Matadors, en route to a game-high 37-point performance and a game winning last second three-point shot - leading Pinnacle to a huge 82-80 victory.
Shadow Mountain would jump out to a 15-9 lead in the first period after a three-pointer from Javon Blacksher with 3 minutes left to play in the first period. Shadow would lead 17-13 after an intense first period.
After a three-point play from Mannion, Shadow would push ahead, 26-19, after a three-pointer from 6-foot-2 senior guard C. Allen, but Pinnacle would not allow themselves to get down by much in the contest, and after a nice inside offensive post move from 6-foot-10 junior post Tosh Baker and a three-pointer from Trent Brown, Pinnacle would pull back to within two points of Shadow, 26-24. After a baseline runner from Brown with a minute left to play in the first half, Pinnacle would inch back to within one-point, 33-32.
Pinnacle would then take the lead, 35-33, with :28 seconds remaining in the first half, after an offensive tip-in from 6-foot-5 senior forward Colby Howard. The two teams would go into the half tied at 35 all, after a nice driving layup from 6-foot-4 junior guard/forward Shamar Morrow.
Mannion would struggle to find the mark on his jump shot in the game's first half, as he would struggle from the field, amidst the intense defensive pressure of Javon Blacksher and his guard teammates. Blacksher may be the state's top defensive guard, and his lateral quickness and quick hands would make it tough for Mannion to catch fire in the first half, as he was forced into quick shots and long perimeter shots from the field. But that would not be the case in the second half, as a much more mature Mannion this season, seemed to slow down and get into a groove in the second half. Mannion would actually pour in 16-straight points in the game's second half to keep his team in the contest and within striking distance of Shadow Mountain.
After back-2-back three-pointers from Mannion, Pinnacle would take a 45-41 lead with 3:25 remaining in the third. After another perimeter jumper from Mannion, a layup in transition and another three-pointer from the corner, Pinnacle would take a 53-48 lead, before Shadow Mountain would then come right back. After a loose ball and layup from House, Shadow would narrow the margin again to one-point, 53-52, after three periods, in Pinnacle's favor.
The game would set up an intense final quarter. After another mid-range jumper from Mannion, a three-pointer from Trent Brown would give Pinnacle a narrow 63-61 lead with 5:22 left to play.
The two teams would trade leads the remainder of the contest, and Shadow would take back the game's lead, 71-69, after an offensive rebound and put-back from Morrow, but Pinnacle would take the lead back after Trent Brown would get fouled on a three-point point by Blacksher. Brown would knock down all three free-throws, as the foul would give Blacksher his 5th foul of the game and forcing him to exit the game with 1:56 left to play in the contest.
Pinnacle 6-foot-1 junior guard Marcus Libman would struggle to find his range on his shots for much of the game, but with a minute left to play in the game, Libman would knock down a big three-pointer from the corner on his birthday evening, to give Pinnacle a two-point lead, 77-75.
With :38 seconds left to play, Jaelen House would get a driving basket in the lane, and then with :11 seconds left to play, he would get fouled and knock down two clutch free-throws to push Shadow ahead 80-79 - setting up an epic final play of the game. With just seconds on the clock, Mannion would in-bound the basketball and travel the length of the floor, only to almost lose the basketball and then heave a three-point shot at the buzzer, which would bank off the glass and go in at the buzzer - giving Pinnacle the huge victory, 82-80 over Shadow Mountain and handing the Matadors their first loss in state in more than 70 games.