“It couldn’t come at a better time,” Branchik said. “We need a little break right now. We need to be able to break down some stuff. This is a good team. This is a good group of kids, and they are hard-working. We just have to really excel on the things that we do already. We have to make those a little bit better.”
A fourth-quarter comeback attempt by the Maricopa boys basketball team fell short Tuesday night as Gilbert Williams Field pulled away for a 62-49 victory over the visiting Rams.
After trailing by 11 points at 49-38 heading into the final period, the Rams closed within 49-44 on a three-point field goal from the right wing by Justin Warren and a three-point play on a layup and free throw by Fernando Estrada.
The Black Hawks responded by scoring 10 consecutive points over the ensuing four minutes, retaking control on a three-pointer from the right corner by Steve Larkin, a steal and layup by Larkin, a layup and free throw by Trey Brown and a drive to the basket by Tom Ross.
“We made our run,” Maricopa co-coach Charles Litt said. “We just have to be able to stop their run when they come back at us.”
During the decisive second half, the Rams (2-8 overall, 0-4 in the Class 4A-II East Sky Region) missed several open shots, which head coach Andy Branchik said could have made a big difference.
“We have to capitalize on those opportunities, because I thought we played well on defense and caused some turnovers,” Branchik said. “But we didn’t convert on some of those.”
Warren led the Rams with 17 points, and he also added seven rebounds. Maricopa also got seven points from Estrada, six points and eight rebounds from Richard Poyner and six points and seven rebounds from Tyler Carlson.
Additionally, Daniel Cross came off the bench to score seven points and grab eight rebounds for the Rams.
“Cross gives us an extra guard on the floor that can handle the basketball and also can score,” Litt said. “And he also is a pretty good defender.”
Williams Field (2-3, 1-1) was led by Larkin, who finished with 23 points, and Dan Tepovich, who contributed 14 points and 10 rebounds.
The Rams now have two weeks to prepare for the annual Maricopa Hoops Holiday Classic, which will take place Dec. 29-30. Branchik said that the break presents an opportunity for improvement for the Rams, who will use the practice time to get ready for the upcoming tournament as well as for the regular season’s final 11 games that are scheduled for January and February.