On Thursday, February 21st I traveled to Wells Fargo Arena (ASU) and watched the semi-final playoffs for the Division-I State Tournament, which featured the #3 Pinnacle Pioneers versus the #2 Chavez Champions.
The story line in my opinion was the depth of Chavez versus the star status of Pinnacle, with 6-foot-5 senior wing Drew Bender (Rice University signee) and 6-foot-4 junior guard Dorian Pickens.
The game started quickly with Pickens for a drive to the hole, followed by a left-hand lay-up for another two points for a 4-0 lead for Pinnacle.
Chavez 5-foot-10 senior guard Jesse Salazar got to the line and made two free-throws for a 4-2 game. After a free throw by Pickens, Salazar made a run-out lay-up for a 5 to 4 lead for Pinnacle. Pickens, once again, got the ball on the low block and scored, followed by 5-foot-11 senior guard Tyler Bell for a 7 to 6 Pinnacle lead.
Pinnacle 6-foot-1 junior guard Will Donovan came off the bench and drilled a 3-ball from a nice feed from Pickens for a 10-6 game. After a free throw made by Chavez, Pickens scored a deep 3-ball for a 13-7 lead for Pinnacle. Then Pinnacle's 6-foot-3 senior forward Judson Stoddard hit a deep 2-ball from the corner for a 15-7 lead.
Jamarius Claiborne hit a three-pointer from the corner, then Pickens scored a lay-up, followed by Chavez 6-foot-5 junior forward Pablo Rivas and Donovan for two-points each for a 19-12 lead for Pinnacle.
Chavez then goes on a 7-0 run for a 19-19-tie game with 5 minutes left in half, including a 3-ball by 5-foot-10 senior guard Will Holt.
Pickens and 6-foot junior Trey Ingram answered the run for a 23-19 lead for Pinnacle.
Then Holt for another deep 3-ball from corner and Rivas got away on a fast break to dunk it for a 24 to 23 lead for Chavez.
Then Pinnacle would go on a 9-0 run for a 32-24 lead for Pinnacle with 2 minutes left to play in the half.
Then Chavez 6-foot-2 senior guard Lorenzo Smith scored an “and-1” for a 32 to 27 lead for Pinnacle. Then Pickens with a floater at the end of the quarter for his 18th point to cap off an impressive half of play.
In the first half, Pablo Rivas scored 6 points and swatted away 4 shots.
The second half started with a Bender drive-by down low in the post, and then a Rivas shot-fake and an elbow jumper for a 36 to 29 lead.
Then Pickens got hacked for a lay-up attempt and converted two freebies, followed by a Salazar “and-1” for a 38-32 lead for Pinnacle.
6-foot-5 senior forward Lee Andari made a nice hook shot down low. Then Rivas and Ingram exchanged buckets.
Pickens got a lay-up with a slick pass by Ingram, followed by a Salazar tip-in for a 44-36 lead for Pinnacle.
Then Bender with a 3-ball and then a steal and another 3-ball for a 50-36 lead with 1 minute left in the 3rd period - the biggest lead of the night for Pinnacle.
Chavez would go on a 4-0 run, followed by another Pickens' mid-range shot for a 52-40 game with 7 minutes left in the game. Rivas would then go on a run with a smooth feathery floater, and then a timely tip-in for a 53-46 lead with 5:24 left in the game. Then Andari and Rivas both made tough baskets for a 55-48 lead.
Pickens with a deuce down low, followed by Chavez 5-foot-10 sophomore guard Thomas Smith for a 57-50 game with 3 minutes left in the game. Bender would then get fouled and convert both for a 59-50 lead, as it seemed like every time Chavez would go on a run, Bender or Pickens would make a play.
Then Rivas got an easy one down low from a nice feed by Bell for a 59-52 lead with 1:30 left, as they tried to claw their way back in the game.
Bender though would score again down low, before a Will Holt deep three-pointer for a 61-55 lead, with possibly some momentum for Chavez.
Right on cue, Pickens would hit a tough lay-up and get fouled hard for an “and-1” for a 64-55 lead - squashing the momentum and possible chances of Chavez going to the finals.
Pinnacle would make some free throws to get the final score of 69 to 59 for a Pinnacle win - advancing to the State Finals.
Pickens was special with 31 points and 10 rebounds, while Bender had 13 points in the win. Even though he continues to limp around, he fights through it and is a calm leader in the game.
Pablo Rivas was also impressive with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 4 blocks in the loss. Every starter for Chavez is a senior, except Rivas, which will make it harder for them to come back to the Final 4 next year, but Rivas has improved leaps and bounds and will have to carry the load next year.