And a child shall lead them...
With two rare charging fouls and the head coach getting a technical foul within four minutes of the first quarter, San Rafael Junior High had a lot to overcome in the championship finale of the annual Castle Valley Athletic Association Varsity Basketball Tournament on Thursday, Feb. 18. They did just that in a very close game with the Pirates of Mont Harmon, as they took the title with a stunning 57-53 victory.
In a hard-fought fourth quarter, the Bulldogs trailed by two until Michael Peczuh stepped to the free throw line. He missed both shots, but a teammate tracked down the rebound, put it in to tie the game. Later, San Rafael sank a pair of free throws to put them up by two. It was an advantage they would not relinquish.
The first quarter started with Mont Harmon controlling the tempo as they fought for rebounds and ran the floor. Turnovers were a problem for both clubs, but neither team could capitalize much.
Early on, the crowd began expressing displeasure at most of the calls from the officials. There seemed to be a large amount of penalties call on the Bulldogs, much to the chagrin of the fans. Even San Rafael's head coach voiced his angst and was soon hit with a technical foul - which is about as rare in a junior basketball game as a charging call is in the NBA.
By the way, there were TWO charging calls made in this contest. Despite all of these woes, the Bulldogs only trailed the Pirates close at the end of the first, 14-10.
Mont Harmon continued to control the tempo in the second period, recording several steals and making a few key shots. Halfway through the quarter, San Rafael was finally able to intercept some passes of their own and get back into the game.
But even when the referees began balancing out the foul calls and sending the Bulldogs to the line, it didn't help much as the club struggled to make charity shots. But Mont Harmon's inability to sink shots down low hurt them consistently and kept them from pulling ahead by more than four or five points. As it was, the Dogs stayed within striking distance at the half, down only 30-25.
San Rafael then turned things around in the third, using the Pirates' inability to score as momentum for their own comeback. With two minutes remaining in the third, Josh Bell stole the ball and completed a fast break, closing the gap to one point. After that the lead changed several times in the last two minutes before the quarter ended with the Bulldogs leading for the first time, 44-43.
Girls: Canyon View 51, San Rafael 42
In a game that featured almost as many fouls, jump balls and turnovers than points, Canyon View Junior High built a substantial lead and then held on in a furious fourth quarter to claim the girls championship of the Castle Valley Athletic Association tournament with a 52-41 triumph that was a bit closer than the final score indicated.
The first quarter began slowly as both teams took time to work out their plays. Setting up screens, the Lady Cougars knocked several San Rafael players to the floor in what would be the middle school version of "Let's Get Physical."
There were also times when the players couldn't get to the other side of the court before play was whistled dead because of fouls or jump balls. In fact, even though no one from the Guinness Book of World Records was on hand to prove it, this battle may have just set the all time record in jump balls called in a regulation basketball game.