Rock Point boys make history with Final Four berth
The Rock Point Cougars got into passing lanes and disrupted the offensive flow of the Gilbert Arete Prep boys’ basketball team on Thursday night.
The second-seeded Cougars (21-5 overall) forced 21 turnovers, which included 14 steals en route to a 61-52 victory in the quarterfinals of the Arizona 1A state playoffs at the Yavapai Community College in Prescott.
In doing so, the Cougars made school history by reaching its first Final Four as they are set to play No. 3 North Valley Christian Academy tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the community college.
“It’s amazing, we did the impossible,” said Rock Point senior Jaron Kirk, who came off the bench and finished with 11 points. “Hopefully we can come back with the win (tonight).”
“It’s every athlete’s dream to make it here,” fellow senior Ral’Shaun Descheny chimed in. “We’ve been trying to get to this point every since we got to high school.”
The Cougars broke a tied game by scoring the first seven points at the start of the second half for a 35-28 lead after junior guard Johnston Begay hit 1-of-2 free throws with 6:05 left in the third.
Rock Point coach Erick Johnson said the mentality after the break was to attack the basket.
“We made some key buckets and from there we didn’t look back,” the first-year Rock Point coach said.
Arete Prep got as close as six points early in the fourth but a technical by head coach Mike Caviness with 5:37 left put Kirk at the line as he calmly sank both free throws.
The Rock Point reserve said those free throws gave him the confidence to finish out the game strong, as he put in eight of his 11 points in the closing minutes.
“Coach needed someone to step up so I did,” he said.
With his 11 points, Rock Point had two others finish in double figures with Begay leading the way with 18 points while Descheny added 16.
“I tried to get my teammates involved,” said Begay, who was one of the Rock Point’s catalyst in breaking down the Charger’s defense.
“When I didn’t have an opening I just kicked it out,” he said.
With eight points, Rock Point senior Adrian Johnson just missed scoring in double figures.
“We just stuck to the game plan,” Johnson said, while adding that he waited three years to finally get past the quarterfinals at a state tournament.
“This is a big accomplishment for our school,” he said. “I’ve been dreaming about this the past three years. I’m just glad that I got to do this with my brothers.”
Defensively, the Rock Point team used a number of players in pursuing Arete Prep point guard Toni Atolagbe, who finished with 13 points.
“Coach told me to stick to No. 4 because he’s the person that makes the team go,” said Begay. “He’s the main person that can carry the team. I just tried my best to stop him.”
Sophomore forward Matt McClelland led the Chargers with 18 points while junior Brandon Fish added 14.
As for tonight’s game, Rock Point coach Erick Johnson said they’ll have their hands full.
“They’re quick and they can shoot,” he said. “They also play good defense and they’re a team that can get right in our face and cause turnovers.”