The Paradise Valley High School Invitational is one of the bright spots for me every year. I really enjoy attending this annual event, as it kicks off the start to the basketball season and always includes good teams in the event. Most importantly, the event is always well organized and operated by Paradise Valley High School's staff, led by hard working and successful head coach Mark Macgowan. Macgowan is a class act and is coming off leading the program to last year's Division-II state title. It was also very enjoyable on Saturday afternoon to have an opportunity to speak with legendary and former Paradise Valley High School head coach Bill Farrell - reminding myself of my former high school basketball days in the state.
After spending Saturday afternoon and evening at this year's event, I was able to observe three different games, led by Perry High School (4-0) winning this year's Paradise Valley High School Invitational tournament championship with a narrow 60-58 win over a talented Desert Ridge HS (3-1) team. While this year's version of Desert Ridge will be very tough to beat, Perry High School was able to hand them their first loss of the season behind the play of their terrific backcourt - brothers, 5-foot-10 senior guard Jordan Howard and 5-foot-10 freshman guard Markus Howard. Markus would finish with a team-high 16 points while Jordan would contribute 13 points in the win.
Jordan Howard would be selected as the Tournament's Most Valuable Player after the conclusion of the event.
Markus Howard was the absolute talk of the tournament though, as the superb freshman guard would pour in an amazing 40 points in his team's 84-60 semi-final victory over Dobson High School. Are you serious? 40 Points! I have not seen a freshman player in Arizona ever produce 40 points in memory - can anyone else? I have spoken about this young man's talent as a college prospect now for 2 years, so it is nothing new for me or my staff to finally see him destroy Arizona high school competition. Highly influenced by the player development from his knowledgeable father, Chuck Howard, this young man was terrific in this week's event - averaging 23.3 points per/game in his team's 4 wins in the tournament.
Howard would show some questionable shot selection in the third period of the championship game, and would pick up his fourth foul. After going to the bench in the third, Desert Ridge, behind the strong play of talented 6-foot-4 sophomore forward Teddy Allen (25 points) and athletic 6-foot-3 senior guard Hunter Thomas (17 points), would outscore Perry 19 to 12 in the third period. Both teams would head into the fourth period tied at 48 all.
The difference for Perry HS in this year's championship game was the play of 6-foot-6, 200-pound senior post Geoffrey Vredevoogd. Vredevoogd would finish the game with 15 points and 7 rebounds, contributing good interior scoring and finishing strong around the basket for Perry. Vredevoogd has developed nicely over his four years of high school - developing into a serious college prospect now. He will be a major key for Perry this high school season.
Another major key for Perry this high school season will be the return of 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior forward Jake Mortensen. Mortensen has been out with an injury to his foot. He will return to action next week for Perry. The addition of Mortensen to this year's Perry group will make this a very talented team - giving Perry their best high school team in the school's young history.
I will say this again and it has been my observation since the summer, Desert Ridge will be a serious force this high school season. This talented group did not play their best in Saturday evening's championship game, so they would miss out winning the event's championship game. But for Desert Ridge, a team that struggled to win basketball games last season, they will first need to develop a feel for major success. This team will be very good late in the season, and will utilize the high school season to prepare them for a nice post-season run at the end of the year . . .
In the third place game of the evening, Dobson (3-1) squeaked past Deer Valley in a 2-point win, after a late-game winning mid-range jump shot by 6-foot-4 senior guard Kodi Justice (Arizona State signee). Justice and his backcourt mate, 6-foot-4 senior guard Ryan Richardson (Weber State signee) both had very lackluster performances in the game, as neither player finished in double figures. Both players looked to be uninspired after losing in this week's semi-finals (84-60) to Perry HS, and giving up 40 points to freshman guard Markus Howard.