When Agassi Prep’s boys basketball team faced Lincoln County on Feb. 1, prolific Lynx senior guard Dantley Walker led his team to victory by scoring a state-record 73 points.
In Friday’s semifinal of the Class 2A Southern League tournament at Durango, the Stars got another shot at slowing down Walker.
And while Walker, who committed to UNLV on Tuesday, led all scorers with an eye-popping 56 points, Agassi Prep slowed down the Lynx star just enough and countered with a balanced attack to pull out an 86-80 victory and clinch a berth in next week’s state tournament.
The Stars (15-7) advanced to face Needles in the tournament championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday at Durango.
“I am thrilled we made it to state now,” Agassi Prep coach William Hopkins III said. “We have made it past that first hurdle. I am just thankful that they persevered. They got through this adversity, and I think they can breathe now.”
Kalinn Jackson scored 22 points, Terrell Kemp 21, Quincy Brown 17 and Anson Williams 10 to lead the Stars.
Despite that balance, the Stars had to hit several key buckets down the stretch to thwart Walker and close out the Lynx.
After Walker scored on a drive and a free throw to give Lincoln County a 69-66 lead with 5:23 left in the fourth quarter, Jackson and Kemp led the Stars on an 8-0 run to give them a five-point lead.
Walker drained his sixth 3-pointer of the game to cut the Stars lead to 79-76 with 2:12 left. But Williams converted a traditional three-point play for Agassi, and the Stars nailed their free throws down the stretch to close out the victory.
“Once we started pushing the ball up the floor and getting easy baskets, I started to see the team encouraging each other. And that was a wonderful thing,” Hopkins said. “When we worked in practice I said ‘Even if he scores 80, we are going to score more.’ I was not concerned if he set a record. We just had to contest all shots.”
Walker appeared early to be headed to another record-setting performance, as he enthralled the large crowd by scoring all of the Lynx’s 21 points in the first quarter. Then early in the second quarter, he tossed in a long 3-pointer to extend the Lincoln County lead to 27-16.
But Agassi Prep settled down, and the Stars occasioinally threw three defenders at Walker, a strategy that eventually paid off. The Stars finished the half trailing by a single point, and Jackson scored seven points as Agassi Prep started the third quarter on an 11-2 run to take a 48-40 lead.
“I have to give Lincoln credit. They weren’t able to match us up man-to-man, so they played a zone, and they did a wonderful job,” Hopkins said. “This was an important game. We closed Lincoln out and closed Walker’s season out.”
Needles 60, The Meadows 56 — At Durango, Aaron Burns scored 24 points and led Needles back from a 14-point halftime deficit to seal a victory in the other semifinal Friday.
“I think our seniors really stepped up when we needed them at the end, especially with rebounding, free throws at the end, and defense,” Needles coach Jeff Plank said.
Ryan Andrews added 13 for Needles (17-6), which will play Agassi Prep at 5 p.m. Saturday at Durango in the tournament finals. Both teams advance to next week’s Class 2A state tournament at The Orleans Arena.
Needles’ girls figured they were in for a close game Friday against Mountain View, after splitting both regular-season meetings with the Saints.
But the determination of Needles forward Gena Chavira showed after her team trailed 21-16 at halftime, and the Mustangs rallied for a 40-37 win over Mountain View in the Class 2A Southern League semifinals at Durango.
The Mustangs play Lincoln County (16-9) in the championship at 3:20 p.m. today at Durango.
“We started off slow, but then the girls picked it up and did good on adjusting offensively,” Chavira said.
Trailing 31-30, Chavira drained a 3-pointer from the left wing with 6:09 left in the fourth quarter to give the Mustangs (24-3) a lead they never gave up.
“All season long against this team we were sluggish offensively in the first half,” Needles coach Manuel Calderon said. “Fortunately we hung around, and we knew we needed to get the ball in Gina’s hands. We got a couple of nice open looks for her and she drained them.”
Chavira scored eight of her 12 points in the fourth quarter and got two key rebounds with less than two minutes remaining, including a put-back layup off teammate Chanler McCorkle’s missed free throw.
Abby Chandler scored seven of her team-high 16 points in the third quarter for Needles. Holly Laswell added six points for the Mustangs.
Mountain View junior guard Briana Marruffo led all scorers with 17 points, and Patrice Marshall added nine points for the Saints.
Lincoln County 49, Calvary Chapel 27 — The Lynx held a 21-17 edge at the half, but pulled away in the second half to earn a spot in the final.
Leti Escobedo paced Lincoln County (16-9) with 15 points, and led a staunch defensive effort that yielded 30 turnovers.
“The first half we came out slow as it took us a while to wake up, “ Lincoln County coach Matt Cameron said. “Luckily Leti was able to hit some big shots and we got back into it.”
Melanie Florence scored 11 points, and Lacee Babcock grabbed 10 boards for the Lynx.
Marrisa Bonnefin had 10 points and 11 rebounds for Calvary Chapel (13-13), and Kelsy Hannah added seven blocks for the Lions.