Sunrise Mountain High School (14-4) and Centennial High School (14-6) are among the top programs in the West Valley, so when the two teams faced off on Friday evening it was sure to be an action-packed event, as both teams were looking for bragging rights, as well as looking to improve their chances for a 5A State title run.
For Sunrise Mountain and Head Coach Gary Rath, the time is now, as the Mustangs have a very talented lineup and also have some maturity in their lineup - primed to make a state playoff run this season.
For a very young Centennial HS team and Head Coach Randy Lavender, the time may not be now, but the program is definitely on the rise, and looking to take the next step in their program's future, but they would definitely need to overcome a very game Sunrise Mountain program to do so.
Both teams would fight hard in the game's first half in front of a largely dominated Centennial home crowd of parents and students. Late in the first half, Sunrise Mountain would finally get some breathing room from Centennial, after a three-pointer from 5-foot-11 sophomore guard Rafe Canale - giving Sunrise Mountain a 35-30 lead with 1:21 left to play in the half.
But Centennial would come right back after a steal and three-point play from 6-foot sophomore guard Trenten Lavender. Centennial would then turn up their defensive inensity, and go into a full-court press, which would lead to several deflections and steals late in the half. A driving basket with 13.1 seconds to play in the first half by 6-foot-2 senior guard Malcolm Daniels would tie the game at 35 all at the half.
The third period would be the best quarter of intense basketball in this match-up and would tell the story, as both teams would fight hard to gain an edge. Centennial would jump out early to take a 39-35 lead in the second half, after a big 4-point play by 6-foot sophomore guard Jake Lifgren. Lifgren's three-pointer after being fouled and conversion would ignite the home crowd.
Then Sunrise Mountain would get it going in the third period consistently behind the strong play of 6-foot-6 junior wing Colin Carey, and the tough, hard-nosed play inside of 6-foot-6 junior post JaiSheldon Yates. The combination of Carey and Yates would be big for Sunrise Mountain in the second half, as the two top performers would raise their level of performance.
With Centennial taking the game lead and charging, a three-pointer from Carey with 4:24 to play in the period would stop the bleeding for Sunrise Mountain. Then a nice dunk on the break on an alley-oop pass from 6-foot-2 senior guard Eddie Ekpoh to 6-foot-4 senior Aidan Blaylock, who ran the length of the floor and finished a one-handed dunk after the pass. After a floater from Colin Carey, Sunrise Mountain would take a 54-50 lead into the fourth period.
In the game's final period, with Centennial charging, Carey would make a big three-pointer after being fouled from the corner - a (4) point play, which would give Sunrise Mountain a 58-54 advantage with 5:09 left to play. From there, JaiSheldon Yates and his teammates would completely dominate the game down the stretch - wearing down the young group from Centennial en route to a big 76-64 victory on the road.
Sunrise Mountain will next face Kellis HS (7-11) at home on Tuesday, while Centennial will look to regroup on the road against a very talented Sunnyslope (15-5) team, who is coming off a narrow overtime loss at home against Ironwood HS.