Senior Darrell Handy-Johnson and the Maricopa Rams worked their way into the state tournament the hard way, by bumping off the 10th-ranked Deer Valley Skyhawks. File photo by Victor Moreno

The Maricopa High School boys basketball team defeated Deer Valley tonight, 65-61, in the 5A conference play-in.

The upset victory of the No. 23 Rams over the No. 10 Skyhawks puts Maricopa into the state tournament.

The Rams charged out of the chute to a 17-9 lead in the first quarter, and the hosting Skyhawks never recovered. But they came close.

Deer Valley scored eight unanswered points in the final minutes of the second quarter, and Maricopa held on to 31-29 halftime lead.

In a back-and-forth third quarter, the Skyhawks took the lead briefly but the Rams pushed ahead again. Maricopa was on top by just one point going into the fourth.

Deer Valley looked like it would at last build a cushion after taking back the lead, but Maricopa wiped away those hopes with a 3-pointer. The Rams held their nerves through the final minutes and helped themselves at the free-throw line to sew up the win and extend their season.

The brackets for the state tournament will be announced Sunday. The boys’ bracket begins play Wednesday.



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