Anthony Marshall, Mojave upend No. 1 Palo Verde

There are still two regular-season games remaining, but Mojave’s Anthony Marshall said Friday’s Northwest League game boys basketball game at Palo Verde felt like something different.

“It’s the end of the season, and it was a playoff atmosphere,” said Marshall, who has signed with UNLV. “This is how you get ready for the playoffs, by playing games like this.”

The Rattlers certainly appear ready as they knocked off top-ranked Palo Verde 55-52 on its home floor behind a big all-around effort from Marshall. The 6-foot-3-inch senior guard scored 25 points to go with eight rebounds, five steals, four assists and two spectacular blocks as Mojave (16-7, 8-4 Northwest) won for the fifth time in a row.

The result also means the third-place Rattlers locked up a spot in the Sunset Region playoffs. Mojave has a three-game lead over Centennial with only two games remaining. The top four teams in the league qualify for the playoffs.

“It’s always a battle in this division,” Mojave coach Tony Hopkins said. “To go to someone’s home court and win a game, it is big.
“Everybody in our division is jockeying for position. They’re only taking four teams. We’re trying to compete not to be the odd team out.”

The loss also knocked the Panthers (18-4, 10-2) out of a first-place tie with Cheyenne and could potentially cost Palo Verde a top seed for the playoffs.

“It might be a blessing in disguise,” Panthers coach Jermone Riley said. “It could work in our favor. Our season’s not over. It’s one loss. We have to come back and be ready to take care of business on senior night (Tuesday against Shadow Ridge).”

Marshall scored after a nice spin move and then drained two free throws to put the Rattlers on top 53-46 with 3:21 left in the fourth quarter.

Palo Verde made a late surge as Moses Morgan and Liloa Nobriga converted down low and Davion Pearson hit two free throws to cap a 6-0 run that made it 53-52 with 1:40 to go.

But Mojave’s Kevin James (12 points, eight rebounds) nailed a baby hook from the baseline with 28 seconds remaining for a 55-52 lead, and the Panthers missed two shots in the final 10 seconds. First, Brandon Birdsong knocked away a lob pass intended for Palo Verde’s Bryce Cotton. After Mojave’s Prentice Marshall missed the front end of a one-and-one, Morgan’s 3-pointer just before the buzzer didn’t fall.

“We wanted a quick basket out of the (out of bounds), and Bryce has caught most of those lobs. They made a great defensive play,” Riley said. “We didn’t attack their zone and we were passive early on. In the second half we were more aggressive, but it was three points too late.”

Morgan finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Panthers.

Pearson added 11 points, but Mojave’s 1-3-1 zone defense controlled the tempo for most of the game and bothered the Panthers into a 19-for-55 shooting night.

“We knew if we zone them it could work if we didn’t allow dribble penetration and let them kick to shooters,” Hopkins said. “Moses is a tremendous shooter, and he never did get going. Fortunately, some of the shots other players took missed and we were able to secure rebounds.”

Anthony Marshall had both blocks in the first quarter and seven points, including one dunk. His steal and layup put the Rattlers up 7-6, and Mojave never trailed after that. Prentice Marshall’s 3-pointer capped a 10-3 run that gave the Rattlers their biggest lead of the game at 23-15 midway through the second quarter.

Mojave led 26-23 at the break, and the teams were tied just once — at 30 after Drew Topham’s bucket inside for Palo Verde — the rest of the way. Jamey Gream’s putback with 6:40 remaining in the game brought the Panthers as close as 42-41 early in the fourth quarter before Mojave scored the next five points to regain control.

“This gives us confidence,” Anthony Marshall said. “The last couple games we’ve been on a roll. We’re trying to make a statement and trying to get ready for the playoffs. Every game is a playoff game from here on out.”