The first annual Duel In The Desert presented by Monarch Sports took place Friday evening on the new campus of Rancho Solano Prep, located in Scottsdale, Arizona. While this annual event is the first of it's kind and had very little promotion, the gym was packed with fans in an attempt to catch the nation's premier high school basketball program - Findlay Prep (NV) in the second game of the night.
Findlay Prep (17-3) would take on one of Arizona's premier teams, Pinnacle High School (9-6). While Pinnacle was thought to be a serious contender to win this year's Division-I state title before the high school season began, they came into Friday night's match-up as losers of 4 out of their last 5 games. Pinnacle struggled over the holiday break while competing in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge. Facing Findlay Prep would be an insurmountable task for Pinnacle, but would make for a very good game to watch for Arizona basketball enthusiasts.
In the first game of the evening, a very talented Sunnyslope HS (13-1) team would impress again - defeating a loaded Serra HS (CA) team in the first game, 68-63. Serra (8-5) has a loaded team of players, while Sunnyslope is playing dominant basketball this season, led by two primary but superb prospects. 6-foot-10 senior post Michael Humphrey (Stanford signee) and 6-foot-3 junior guard Sammy Tompkins have been good enough this high school season to keep Sunnyslope almost undefeated on the season. Sunnyslope is fresh off a terrifc 4-1 performance in this year's Max Preps Holiday Classic in Palm Springs, California over the holidays.
Michael Humphrey is playing dominant basketball in the post this season, and is quickly proving that he may just be the best senior prospect in Arizona's very loaded 2014 class. Tompkins is playing big-time as well this season, and has developed into one of the elite 2015 guard prospects in the West. In the win over Serra HS on Friday evening, Humphrey would pour in 22 points, 20 rebounds and 4 blocks in his team's win, while Tompkins would finish with an impressive game-high 38 points in the victory.
In the second game of the night, Pinnacle would look to keep pace with an ultra-loaded Findlay Prep team. Led by the play of 6-foot-6 senior forward Kelly Oubre (University of Kansas signee) and 6-foot-7 senior forward Craig Victor (University of Arizona signee), Findlay Prep is absolutely loaded again. Their best prospect, 6-foot-6 senior guard Rashad Vaughn, has been out with an injury for some time and may not return this season.
Pinnacle would come out playing very hard early - playing textbook basketball and looking to make crisp passes in the first half, amidst Findlay's superior athleticism and length defensively.
Early in the game, an alley-oop pass on the break from Findlay's 6-foot-1 sophomore point guard Derryck Thornton to Kelly Oubre would result in a monster, power one-handed dunk, which would get a strong reaction from the crowd in attendance - setting the tone for the game at hand.
With Oubre almost scoring at will on one end of the floor, Pinnacle's 6-foot-5 senior guard/forward Dorian Pickens would look to keep Pinnacle in the game in the first half. Pickens would convert a three-point play and then another three-pointer from the wing to pull Pinnacle within 6 points, 29-23, of Findlay with 5:16 left to play in the first half.
Findlay's talented 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Justin Jackson would then convert two-consecutive three-pointers from the wing just before the half - putting Findlay ahead at the half by double-digits.
Findlay would not look back from there, and would go on to absolutely blow out Pinnacle in the game's second half, and win the game by more than 30 points, 79-46.
Findlay Prep will now go on to face the state's top basketball team and program, Corona Del Sol (13-0) on Saturday evening at 6PM back at Rancho Solano.
I had an opportunity to meet with the head coach and athletic director from Rancho Solano on Friday evening, and came away very impressed with what the Rancho Solano program is attempting to do in the state of Arizona, once again, looking to raise the overall level of basketball play in the state. A formidable task and something that I have pursued for almost 20 years in Arizona, but without very little overall support. The opportunity for Arizona basketball fans to witness such a dominant national powerhouse in Findlay Prep (NV) this weekend, is awesome for the state to have another opportunity to see what top-rated national basketball talent looks like. While the task is not to see Findlay Prep dominate Arizona teams, but rather give our Arizona prospects an opportunity to play against the nation's best teams and players, without having to meet them on the spring and summer AAU/club circuit.
The local AIA has never been a fan of club basketball and never will be, so this is an opportunity for Arizona high school teams to have their chance to play on the big stage. Amidst much scrutiny, the goal is to ultimately raise or improve the level of basketball in Arizona - not kill it.