WEST VALLEY PREPS

Sunrise Mountain boys take command in second half at Ironwood

Posted 1/15/22

The 5A Northwest Region can humble even the best boys basketball teams.

Sunrise Mountain entered the heart of region play this week undefeated and ranked #2 in 5A. Tied midway through its Jan. 14 road game at surging Ironwood, the Mustangs were a few mistakes away from a second region loss in two nights.

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WEST VALLEY PREPS

Sunrise Mountain boys take command in second half at Ironwood

Posted

The 5A Northwest Region can humble even the best boys basketball teams.

Sunrise Mountain entered the heart of region play this week undefeated and ranked #2 in 5A. Tied midway through its Jan. 14 road game at surging Ironwood, the Mustangs were a few mistakes away from a second region loss in two nights.

Instead, the Mustangs scored to start the second half, and used a patient offense, connected defense and three three-point baskets to build a 48-38 lead after three.  Sunrise Mountain (17-2 overall, 11-1 regular season) never trailed in the second half and salted away a 63-54. 

"Jordan (Augustine) does such a good job. He changes their defense and they're long. They run such good set pieces," Sunrise Mountain coach Gary Rath said. "We struggled with it right away, but we were able to kind of hold our own so it was tied. Our group is like that. Once we see something, we start to get more comfortable and start to understand where openings are. And Carter (Gittens) and Rafe (Canale) put a lot of pressure on the other team and open it up for other guys."

Friday night, Gittens' 15-point first half and Ironwood at times switching to a diamond and one defense to try to slow him opened up the floor for teammates in the second half.

In particular, junior forward Patrick Weyrauch thrived in the third quarter, knocking down a pair of trey and a short jumper for all eight of his points - on all three of his shots.

Gittens then put it away in the fourth quarter, recovering his second shot that was blocked for a putback, then icing the game by catching junior guard Marcus Jones' long pass against the press and dunking for a 60-49 lead.

The junior forward led all players with 23 points and 13 rebounds. He has blown up this year, jumping from 9.4 to 20.1 points and 5.6 to 7.6 rebounds per game.

"It's been fun watching him grow from a little freshman that wasn't sure he belonged on varsity. Each  year he keeps getting better and we tell him he hasn't scratched the surface of what he's capable of. He's stronger and tougher and smarter. He's learning how to play without getting charges, after early in the year he had a bunch of charges. And you could argue he's our best defender too."

After the Mustangs took a 22-18 lead after one quarter, Ironwood's zone limited the visitors to six points in the second quarter and a 28-28 tie. Senior Ringo Aguek scored 11 of his 13 points and grabbed five of his six rebounds before the break.

Ironwood (13-7, 8-4) did not make a three in the second half until a bit more than two minutes were left. Rath said his goal defensively this season has been making opponents shoot contested threes, and he believes they did that most of the night at Ironwood.

The Mustangs also immediately bounced back from an 85-61 loss at #5 Apollo Jan. 13, knocking off #11 Ironwood - one of four contenders in an always-deep region and an unusually deep 5A.

"They're a very resilient group and last night wasn't a good indicator of who we are. But give Apollo credit, they're playing lights out," Rath said. "I'm glad we had a game tonight because I didn't want to wait until Tuesday. We talked about last night and our guys came out ready to play."

Though Sunrise Mountain plays like a veteran team, only three seniors - Canale, Jones and Dagan Graham - are in the rotation. And only three-year starter Canale understands how important it is to break into the top two in the Northwest and get a home playoff game or two.

Each of the last two seasons, Sunrise Mountain finished third in the region with a record around .500. They were battle tested, but entering the playoffs with #11 and #12 seeds.

"It would be cool to win region every year like some teams do but I'm glad we're in a tough region because it prepares us more than any other region. We're playing top 10 teams almost every night," Canle said.

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