Boulder Creek (4-0) would prove Saturday evening in this year's Paradise Valley Invitational that their strong play this week was no fluke, as they would defeat a very talented Apollo High School (3-1) team in the tournament's final game, 75-72, in what may have been the best game of the young high school basketball season.
Boulder Creek is a joy to watch play the game, as they play serious team basketball with an emphasis on sharing the basketball and uniting defensively to make plays and force turnovers. Head coach Ryne Holstrom is one of the very best coaches I have seen in the state of Arizona, and I was very impressed with his ability to lead his team and get his team to mirror his teachings.
6-foot-5 senior wing Nick Johnson has been on a tear this high school season already. After a game-high 26 points in his team's quarterfinal win over Horizon High School, Johnson would again lead Boulder Creek to a semi-final win over host Paradise Valley and then a championship win over Apollo HS.
In the tournament final, Boulder Creek would get out to a big lead early in the game, as 6-foot-2 senior guard Matt Downey would put on a show early in the game - proving that he is among the state's best overall sleeper prospects. Downey's perimeter shooting, driving and finishing and ability to find the open man on the floor was too much early on for the younger Apollo guards. After three-straight three-pointers from Nick Johnson, Boulder Creek would jump out to a huge 25-3 lead.
But a very cold shooting Apollo team, would soon catch fire. Consecutive transition put-backs by 6-foot-3 senior forward Carson Taylor, and then a steal at midcourt and a driving transition layup by 5-foot-11 junior guard Holland "Boo-Boo" Woods would bring Apollo to within 7 points. But Nick Johnson would come right back with another three-pointer to give Boulder Creek a 34-22 halftime lead.
In the third period, Apollo would hang tough before a three-pointer from the corner from 6-foot-4 senior Justin Braun with 1:52 left to play in the period. Then Apollo 5-foot-11 junior guard Dre Marin would come right back with a three-pointer of his own, but, again Nick Johnson would convert back-to-back baskets to end the third period again for his team. Boulder Creek would take a 57-47 lead into the fourth period.
In the fourth quarter, Matt Downey would reappear for Boulder Creek, as he would make a big three-pointer from the wing to give his team a 15-point margin with 6 minutes left to play.
Holland Woods would convert a big three-point play with more than a mninute left to play to make the score 69-64, Boulder. After a three-pointer from Dre Marin with :54 seconds left to play, Apollo would pull to within a point, 70-69. Another three-point play from Woods would then tie the score at 72 all.
With :20 seconds left to play in regulation, Nick Johnson would make a strong drive to the basket, and then make a very unselfish play - finding Justin Braun on the wing for a three-pointer to give their team a 3-point lead. After a missed three-pointer from Apollo's Marin, Boulder Creek would win the championship, 75-72.
Nick Johnson would lead the All-Tournament selections with a Tournament Most Valuable Player honor, and another nice peformance - proving that this Boulder Creek team will be a force to be wreckoned with all season.