On Monday, Palo Verde center Michael Buchanan was the team’s first option, scoring 27 points in the Panthers’ 12-point quarterfinal win over Eldorado.
On Tuesday, it was all about the guards.
Eris Winder, Darryl Gaynor and Nahjee Matlock combined to score 56 points as Palo Verde beat Valley 96-76 to move into the Gold Division championship game at the Foothill Holiday Classic.
The Panthers will play Foothill in the title game at 7:40 p.m. on Wednesday. The Falcons defeated Melbourne, Australia, 59-54.
“That’s the advantage of having a well-balanced team,” Palo Verde coach Jermone Riley said. “We have really good guards, and our bigs are playing really well. ... We have a saying, 'We all get the glory at the end. One man does not make up our team.’ ”
Palo Verde used a 1-3-1 zone early to take Valley out of its game, and the guards set the tempo, turning 13 first-half turnovers into 21 points as the Panthers took a 45-34 lead at the break.
Palo Verde pushed that lead to 19 in the first eight minutes of the second half and cruised from there.
Winder, a junior point guard, led the way with 26 points and seven assists. He was 11-for-16 from the field, as Palo Verde often got out in transition.
Jordyn Martin, a 6-foot-7-inch senior forward, added 18 points and six rebounds for Palo Verde.
“We’ve been blessed to have really big guys like Jordyn and Mike who can score down there and are a low-post presence along with Nahjee Matlock and Eris Winder who can put pressure on guards outside,” Riley said.
Matlock had 14 points and five assists, and Gaynor, a sophomore, came off the bench to add 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists.
“Gaynor’s a great sixth man for us, a high-energy kid off the bench,” Riley said. “He’s adjusting to this varsity game really well, a lot faster than what I thought.”
Caleb Carter led Valley with 25 points and nine rebounds, and Keanu Peters scored 10 points for the Vikings.
Riley said playing for the tournament title is a nice reward for his players’ hard work, but the spot in the final isn’t a surprise.
“We have some experienced players, and we expect a lot,” Riley said. “The bar is set high for these guys.”
Foothill 59, Melbourne (Australia) 54 — Austin Starr hit a 3-pointer with 3:37 to play to break a 42-42 tie, and the Falcons held on for the win.
“We just fought hard,” Foothill coach Kevin Soares said. “It was a great game to be a part of, for us to face that adversity and then come back and win it.”
Foothill led 20-13 at the half before Melbourne stormed back to take a 37-29 lead on a 3-pointer by Michael Dow with 8:05 to play.
Deng Deng scored 10 points to key an 11-0 run that gave Melbourne control.
But the Falcons didn’t fold, tying the game on a runner by Darren Buckles with 4:13 to play, then taking the lead for good on Starr’s third 3-pointer of the game.
The Falcons finished 10-for-24 on 3-pointers, led by Brannon Cresanto, who was 4-for-8 on 3-pointers and scored a game-high 23 points.
“We’ve got guys that really work hard on their 3-point shots, and we do a lot of conditioning so they can still make those shots late in the game,” Soares said.
Starr added 13 points for Foothill, which forced 26 turnovers.
Majok Deng led Melbourne with 21 points, and Deng Deng had 13 points and eight rebounds before fouling out with 4:26 to play.
Eldorado 69, Green Valley 65 — The Sundevils rallied from a 20-point halftime deficit to down the Gators.
Eldorado took the lead for good on a free throw by Da’Quon Thrower with 38.3 seconds that made it 66-65.
Green Valley had a chance to retake the lead, but Ikaika Pladera missed two free throws with 28.9 seconds, and D.J. Billingsley grabbed the rebound.
Billingsley made 1 of 2 free throws with 25.9 seconds, and the Sundevils sealed the victory when Jacob Hollingsworth blocked a shot inside.
Jayveon Brown, who hit four 3-pointers and scored 17 points, hit a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds remaining for the final margin.
Thrower had 24 points to lead all scorers, and Billingsley added nine points, 10 rebounds and five assists for Eldorado.
Durrell McDonald led Green Valley with 23 points. Devan Kohn supplied 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Gators, who led 37-17 at the half.
Las Vegas 90, Lynwood (Calif.) 78 — Hasaan Henderson had 28 points to help the Wildcats past the Knights.
Aziz Leeks added 14 points and 12 rebounds, Phil Dunigan had 12 points, and Olynnso Pratt scored 11 for Las Vegas.
Joseph Rodriguez had 21 points for Lynwood.
ThunderRidge (Colo.) 56, Coronado 37 — Jo Marucci was 5-for-6 on 3-pointers and scored 18 points to lead the Grizzlies past the Cougars.
Lamar Walker had eight points and six rebounds for Coronado.
Denver East 56, Arbor View 37 — Dominique Collier scored 16 points as the Angels beat the Aggies.
Justin Burks had 11 points and seven rebounds to lead Arbor View, and teammate Blake Claxton scored 11.
Malcolm Davis had a tip-in with 1:54 to play to break a 43-43 tie, and Shadow Ridge held on for a 47-45 win over Mt. Miguel (Calif.) in the Silver Division semifinals.
The Mustangs play Liberty in the title game at 6:20 p.m. Wednesday.
Shadow Ridge trailed 26-20 at the half, but rallied to tie the game on a basket by Nick Flowers with 10:52 to go.
Neither team led by more than five points the rest of the way.
David Everage had 13 points, and Flowers scored 12 to lead Shadow Ridge.
Davis added eight points and 10 rebounds for the Mustangs.
Izzy Wagner led the Matadors with 20 points.
Liberty 68, Del Sol 61 — Elijah Graves had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Patriots past the Dragons in the other Silver semifinal.
Liberty led by as much as 16 in the second half before Chris Marshall led a Del Sol comeback.
Marshall had 18 of his game-high 22 points in the second half, and helped the Dragons get as close as five at 60-55 when he drained three free throws with 1:44 to play.
Liberty’s Jeremy Lagasca then scored the next four points to end the threat.
Lagasca came off the bench to score 12 points, and Kyle Kaleb scored 11 for the Patriots.
Kyle Collins scored 12, and Nathan Kirschbaum grabbed nine rebounds for Del Sol.
Faith Lutheran 52, Western 33 — The Crusaders outscored the Warriors 34-17 in the second half to capture the win in the consolation bracket.
D’Khari Hicks had 18 points and five assists and three steals to lead Faith Lutheran. Freshman John Molchon added seven points and 10 rebounds for Faith Lutheran.
Samuel Jamerson, Travis Dunn and Lawrence Weekly each had eight points for Western.
Desert Pines 77, Melbourne 3 (Australia) 59 — Thomas Hooper led four players in double figures with 16 points as the Jaguars won in the consolation bracket.
Eric Collins added 15 points, and Najee McIver and Julian Jacobs each scored 12 for the Jaguars.
Sean Noone led Melbourne with 16 points.
Cimarron-Memorial 64, Lincoln (Colo.) 62 — Erik Brewer scored 20 points to help the Spartans edge the Lancers.
Arin Henderson added 17 points, and J.C. Broussard scored 16 for Cimarron.
Andre Muniz led Lincoln with 16 points.
Mojave 46, Valhalla (Calif.) 37 — Jason Wallace scored 14 points to lead the Rattlers past the Norsemen.
Marcus Hines added 12 points for Mojave.
Patrick Flippo led Valhalla with 10 points.
Sierra Vista 69, Granite Hills (Calif.) 63 — Sean Williams had 35 points to help the Mountain Lions down the Eagles.
Wesley Rouse added 11 points for Sierra Vista.
Scott Atkinson had 29 points to lead Granite Hills.