DaRon

DaRon Holmes prepares to shoot for Millennium basketball.

On the surface, Millennium’s 96-50 win over McClintock on Friday in the 5A quarterfinal round in boys’ basketball seemed like an easy victory. But, according to coach Ty Amundsen, nothing at this level comes without its challenges.

“Nothing’s easy when you get here. But our guys are playing so hard right now. We’ve got so much energy, so much focus because of what happened last year,” he said, referring a one-point loss to Gilbert in the 2018-19 state championship game.

Millennium, who has been one of the most dominant teams in 5A this season, dominated throughout. The Tigers came out of the gate in a full-court press defense, forcing McClintock into turnovers and rushed offensive possessions. Attempting to avoid the rim protection of forward DaRon Holmes, the Chargers often took their first open look, and were unable to hit enough to keep up with the Tigers’ torrid scoring pace.

From those misses, the Tigers ran and were able to score easily at the hoop.

“They were 0-10 from three in the first half and that’s kind of what we wanted, rushed shots and we’re going to get it out and run. We’ve got DaRon cleaning it up on the boards down low, and we’re focused and motivated to try and keep running up points,” Amundsen said.

McClintock seniors Armani Williams and Chance Garland willed the Chargers to keep it close early with several tough baskets, but the never-ending onslaught on both ends of the floor continued for the Tigers.

And when the Chargers’ top players had to rest, those still on the floor were overmatched by Millennium’s size and speed. Meanwhile, even with Holmes and Jackson on the bench, the Tigers kept up the attack.

“Our top nine guys are really good players, so we can run in and out nine guys, so we’ve got the deepest bench and that’s showing right now,” Amundsen said.

The game was all but decided by the end of the third quarter, and the last few minutes ticked down fast with a mercy rule running clock as the Tigers celebrated the chance to continue their season.

While it’s been almost an entire calendar year since Millennium fell to Gilbert in the 5A championship game, but the loss still resonates in the minds of the team, which brought back nearly its entire core from last season.

While blowout wins even over the conference’s top teams have become commonplace for the Tigers, they still have two more wins to go before a title redeems a bit of the hurt.

Next up is a semifinal match against South Mountain, who the Tigers barely beat in an end-to-end, 63-32 battle in December. To reach back-to-back state final, Amundsen knows his team will have to keep up its excellent form of play.

“All the preparation and everything we’re doing is for these moments because we’re trying to play at our top gear at the end of the season,” Amundsen said.

No. 1 Millennium hosts No. 4 South Mountain on Thursday. Tip off is at 7 p.m.