The Maryvale High School boys basketball team learned a lesson on Wednesday night.
Any team is a challenge, especially a backyard rival and especially a program that has been a consistent contender in recent years. So even though Cleveland Hill entered with just one win, the Eagles proved to be more than a worthy foe.
The Flyers put things together in the second half and escaped a surprise challenge, posting a 48-40 win over Cleveland Hill in the second semifinal of the annual Maryvale Holiday Tournament that benefits Coaches Vs. Cancer.
“We felt as if, coming into the game, it was going to be easy,” Maryvale guard Ray Blackwell said. “It wasn’t. They played us tough. Now we know you can never go into a game thinking that. You have to play like it’s your last game every time.”
The 1-6 Eagles – who lost their top four scorers from last year to graduation – started strong with a 5-0 lead and held the lead after the first quarter. Maryvale’s lead was just two at halftime. The Flyers cleaned things up a bit in the second half and pulled away with a sloppy victory.
“We got off to a very slow start but we know what kind of team we really are,” said Blackwell, who scored 14 points for the Flyers. “In the second half we had to turn it up.
It wasn’t too long ago that the Eagles were the power at Maryvale’s tournament. Cleveland Hill won five straight from 2010-14 before the Flyers snapped the run with an overtime win in the finals in 2015. Maryvale will try for a third straight championship today when the Flyers play South Park in the tournament championship game at 6:45 p.m. today.
Contrary to Maryvale, the Sparks started quickly and never let up, rolling to a 65-52 win over Hamburg in a game that was double-digits throughout.
“We did a real good job today,” South Park coach Pete Hudecki said. “We played good man defense, did a real good job playing help, made our layups in transition … pretty much happy with the way we played today.”
David Stroud poured in a game-best 25 points, while Raymond Mushat and Anthony Mack scored 15 points apiece for the Sparks (3-5).
After a senior-laden team came within a last-second shot at a chance of a sectional title a year ago, South Park has a new look this year with just one senior on the squad. But the goals are still high.
“We’re young,” Hudecki said. “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores on there but they’re learning. I really like how it’s going; we’re getting better and better.”
Cleveland Hill will play Hamburg at 5:15 p.m. today in the consolation game of the tournament. Kevin McDermott and Mark Henry added 10 for the Bulldogs (1-3) against the Sparks. Jaylin Dorsey and Khalil Jackson scored 11 each for the Eagles against Maryvale.