The Maricopa High School boys’ basketball team carries a 5-3 record into tonight’s match-up with Casa Grande.
The Rams are coming of a four-game home stand, which they split. They defeated Campo Verde and Willow Canyon but lost to Poston Butte and Mountain View Marana.
Maricopa has made an impact with their fitness, wearing down opponents late in the game. Head coach Tony Fuller credited the ongoing training of the team members, many of whom excel in football, track and other sports.
“That’s something we have to do, run them as much as we can and get them tired,” he said. “We trying to be the best-conditioned team in Arizona; that’s our goal.”
That helped the Rams nearly pull off a miracle comeback Friday against Mountain View. Though Maricopa took an early lead, the Mountain Lions built a 17-point lead in the second quarter. But the Rams adjusted their effort against the taller, deeper, more exhausted team and worked all the way back to within three points in the final seconds before the 62-57 loss.
“They felt like they lost an opportunity, that maybe if they played that way for the entire 32 minutes, we might have won the game,” Fuller said. “So it was a lesson.”
Hosting Willow Canyon on Tuesday, the Rams won 83-67. It was Maricopa’s highest point total of the season.
“I just wanted us to come out a play hard,” Fuller said. “I thought we played a good second half last game, but sometimes we lose focus.”
The Wildcats could do little to stop Maricopa senior Josh Johnson, who stacked up 45 points. Twenty-seven of those came in the first half. He hit seven 3-pointers, including one from near mid-court at the halftime buzzer. Johnson also had nine rebounds, five steals and five assists.
Junior Jelani Elliott scored 10 points and had three rebounds, three assists and a blocked shot. Senior El Jones scored eight points. Senior Longman Pyne had nine rebounds, three assists and a steal to go with his two points.
Tonight’s game starts at 7 p.m. in Casa Grande, where the Cougars are 0-6. The Rams return home Friday to host region rival Ironwood.