Millennium’s defense and clutch shot making helped the Tigers capture a 63-48 home win over Sunnyslope in 5A boys’ basketball Tuesday night.
The Tigers came out hot defensively, preventing dribble penetration and challenging every shot attempt. They allowed just seven points in the first quarter, and 17 total in the first half.
“Games in the past we haven’t been good defensively, so we knew we had to come out and make a statement against a good, physical offensive team,” said Tiger senior Jalan Early.
Offensively, the Tigers were able to capitalize on steals or blocks and get out in transition to create easy scoring opportunities. At one point in the second quarter, Millennium recorded three consecutive possessions with steals that led to layups or dunks.
“I think our ability to run the floor, get up and down in transition, wore them out a little bit. So I was real happy with that,” Millennium coach Ty Amundsen said.
The Tigers took a 31-17 lead into the break.
Sunnyslope began the third quarter more aggressive in attacking the basket, which resulted in a higher-scoring second half. And, they started helping on junior DaRon Holmes, who had previously scored a lot of points off dunks and layups.
Holmes still managed to score inside. But, more importantly, he and other dribblers made passes to the outside for a few back-breaking perimeter jumpers at key moments. Senior Zach Foster hit three three-pointers, including one in the fourth quarter that halted a long Viking scoring run and energized the Tiger bench.
“He can flat-out shoot it,” Amundsen said of Foster. “And so we had him in specifically for that because we knew they were going to help on DaRon and the other guys, so he hit some big threes for us.”
The Vikings made it close in the fourth quarter with a few clutch baskets on aggressive cuts on and off the ball. They trimmed the lead to five with just over two minutes remaining on a pair of foul shots, but the Tigers made a few back-to-back stops, and converted the necessary foul shots to close out the victory.
Millennium, which lost last year’s 5A state championship game by a single point to Gilbert High, is using every game of 5A play this season to test itself. And, Early said, a win over a solid Sunnyslope team that is nearly always among Arizona’s best teams, is a step in the right direction.
“We obviously lost to Gilbert last year, and so we know teams like them or Sunnyslope that are always some of the best are important games, which we always get hyped for,” Early said.
Sunnyslope (8-2) travels to Higley tonight, while Millennium (8-2) will head to North Phoenix to take on Barry Goldwater on Dec. 20 before traveling to a national tournament in South Carolina.
“I think our ability to run the floor, get up and down in transition, wore them out a little bit. So I was real happy with that.”