Keeping track of Jordan and Markus Howard for 32 minutes is a tough job. Desert Ridge knew that after the first time it took on Perry last month in the title game of the Paradise Valley Invitational.
The task was no easier Monday night and in several key instances, Desert Ridge paid for the constant help needed to slow the Perry brother-guard duo. Offensive-rebound baskets were huge — particularly in the second half — as Perry clinged to the lead it built in the first period and staved off Desert Ridge in the final seconds for a 74-70 win at the McClintock Holiday Shootout at Doc Zinke Gym.
Perry (14-1) won the first meeting with Desert Ridge (60-58), — a game just as close and similar in nature. On Monday night Freshman Markus Howard and senior Jordan Howard teamed up for 39 points — 21 and 18, respectively. Desert Ridge coach Greg Ream felt his team had no choice but to give as much help in stopping the Howards, especially when they threatened layups with penetration.
“You have to help when you guard them,” Ream said. “They're tough to handle.”
When the Howards did miss, teammates were there to pick up easy baskets with follows. That list included the bit players for Perry on this night — Kyle Van Haren and Brandon Bidese with a couple putbacks each for most of their combined 11 points. In the final minute Coby de Laveaga scored all five of his points when defensive pressure went elsewhere and left de Laveaga open. He got the ball twice for layups and one ended in a three-point play.
“We teach that team stuff,” Perry coach Joe Babinski said. “I thought we played OK tonight. Our bigs didn't finish as well as they're capable….
“Winning games like this helps us. We've had a lot of wins that weren't close.”
Perry led 61-51 with 5:48 left in the game, but the margin was slashed to two twice in the final minute. Desert Ridge's Teddy Allen, who led all scorers with 31 points, made two free throws with 20.8 seconds left to cut Perry's lead to two for the final time. Perry's Jake Mortensen answered with two free throws with 19.6 seconds left to boost the lead to four. Allen lauchnce da long three the next time down and missed. Markus Howard grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made both to ice the outcome with 8.6 seconds left.
When Perry topped Desert Ridge (10-4) for the Paradise Valley title, 6-foot-6 forward-center Geoffrey Vredevoogd turned in a 15-point night. Vredevoogd wasn't as productive this time, but the 6-4 Mortensen picked up the slack. Mortensen, who has missed more than half of Perry's games while recovering from a broken foot, contributed 11 points — nine in the first half.
Desert Ridge gave Perry plenty to contend with on its end of the floor in trying to defend the Jaguars' Hunter Thomas and Allen. Thomas chipped in 28 with some threes and his usual slashing to the basket. Babinski wasn't all that displeased with the production his team allowed Desert Ridge's tandem, preferring not to forget completely about a couple other Jaguars.
“If you concentrate too hard on those two, they have guys that can count by 3s,” Babinski said. “We didn't want that to happen.”
Desert Ridge guard Dean Spitzer lit up Brophy for 16 points in the semifinals. All four of his baskets in that game were 3s. Spitzer scored just five points on Monday, making one 3 in the third period at the buzzer. The teams meet again on Jan. 22 at Perry in a game that will count in the power-point rankings.
“Maybe we can get the one that counts,” Ream said.