WILLIAMS, Ariz. - The Williams High School boys basketball team missed the state playoffs by one spot. Injuries and sickness at the end of the season made the one extra win they needed impossible to find.
"If we had just one of Colton Grantham, Leo Lopez, or Austin Kennelly for our game at Salt River I know we could have won that game," said head coach Rico Dunn. "We played good down there defensively, just didn't have the offensive fire power to win."
The Vikings recovered from early season woes with a win over Phoenix Day School, which translated into one of their best games of basketball against Grand Canyon.
"Even in defeat, I was extremely proud of my boys that night, they fought hard and we had Grand Canyon beat, we just let them off the hook," Dunn said.
The Vikings held Joey Bankston to one point in the first half. The Vikes intensity level in the second half was not on par with the first. Dunn said Grand Canyon coach Dave Beery made some great adjustments that the Vikes could not find a way to execute against.
"Kennelly played a great game that night, probably the best he's played all year but in the end it just wasn't enough," Dunn said. "I feel we played tight towards the end and forced too many shots when we still had the lead rather than work the clock advantage and look for the best shot available."
The Vikings then went to Bagdad where they had another strong showing.
Lopez, Grantham, and Kennelly all played well. Bagdad had no answer for Lopez's penetration off the screen and roll.
"Austin struggled early but once I challenged him to shut down Bagdad's leading scorer in the game he went off," Dunn said. "Their guard had gone off for 15 points in the first half and Austin held him to three in the second half while exploding offensively himself."
Next up for the Vikings was a rematch with Seligman. Dunn said he told the guys after their loss in the championship game of the Williams Holiday Classic that he believed they were the better team.
"[I told them] we would have our revenge when it really mattered," he said. "Seligman was on a role when they returned to Williams, sitting on the bubble for the state playoffs."
The Vikings were ranked 30th and beat Seligman 80-69.
"We were kind of resolved to play the role of spoiler," Dunn said. "The boys came out strong and built a good lead early."
Dunn said he was certain that Seligman would put a player with a distinct height advantage on Grantham like they had in the championship game. He stressed to Grantham that he did not need to score 20 points to win, the team needed him to be a facilitator.
Grantham, despite some risky shots, scored 38 points. Seligman could not answer the Vikings high pick and roll game, which Dunn said his team executed to perfection.
Dunn explained that the Vikes like to put their opponents in a spot where they have to pick their poison. Either the opponents switch the screen and expose themselves to Lopez on the roll or they fight through and Grantham takes advantage of them. If they sag a defender off of Kennelly in the corner, they leave the Vikes' best shooter unguarded in the corner.
"When our guys are hitting, there really is no way to defend that perfectly," Dunn said.
The Vikings closed out the season with senior night against Thunderbird Academy. "Self-proclaimed bench captain" Gabriel Chavez started for the third time and played most of the night, scoring eight points.
"Gabriel really played a great game, scoring most of his points in the span of two minutes," Dunn said. "A lot of our younger guys got some serious time in this game as it was no longer in doubt very early in the game. I let the boys have some fun on this one."
Dunn said he was really proud of the decisions his two seniors made for the night.
"Colton and Gabriel decided that we needed to rock some throw back uniforms for the night," he said. "Additionally, they requested that Michael Pawlieki, a great all around kid, get to suit up for varsity."