Deer Valley half-court defense perplexes Peoria

Deer Valleys Jackson Leyba drives to the basket against Peoria on Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 at Peoria High School in Peoria. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Having tangled with Shadow Mountain’s elite trapping defense Saturday at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Deer Valley was more than prepared for Peoria’s good trap Tuesday night.

With the Panthers defense unable to generate easy offense, the home team had to contend with Deer Valley’s half-court defense  as the Skyhawks backed off their full-court press most of the night.

Peoria was never able to get comfortable as Deer Valley swarmed its top scorers in a 55-34 4A West Valley Region win.

“They were running and jumping like Shadow Mountain did, so there were really no calls (on offense), it was get the ball in the middle and attack,” Deer Valley coach Jed Dunn said. “(Seeing Shadow) helped 100 percent because the rotations are similar.”

The Skyhawks brought depth along with their defense, in part thanks to a recent lineup change. Four returning seniors started for most of the early months.

Tuesday, senior wing Jalen Allen came off the bench for Deer Valley (13-5, 10-1 regular season) with guard Malcolm Jackson steeping in to start.

Allen and senior forward Ethan Cashion give the Skyhawks two stabilizing forces in the second unit. Allen was the team’s second-leading scorer with 10 points.

“I like (having Jalen Allen in the second unit) because of his length. With him and Ethan coming off the bench, the second group is really good. Those kids – the twins and Ethan – they don’t mind it at all,” Dunn said.

Meanwhile, Cashion did what he normally does. He finished the night with four points, six rebounds, two assists … and five charges drawn.

He was not the only one. Deer Valley finished with double-digit charges drawn.

“Coach had scouted them out a couple weeks ago and said they like to drop their shoulder when going to the basket,” Cashion said. “So I know how to sell it. It works that way.

That was a primary issue for Peoria (11-6, 8-2) Tuesday. But even when the Panthers got a clean look, they weren’t falling.

Junior shooting guard Isaac Monroe was the exception to that rule, hitting three first-half three-pointers. That accounted for more than half of the team’s 16 points at halftime.

“We got things going a little better in the second half but by then they had a firm grip on the game,” Peoria coach William Roberts said. “It’s a growing opportunity. It’s not all bad. It’s never as bad as it seems and never as good as it seems.”

Monroe could not score in the second half. Senior forward John Price finished with a team-high 11 points and seven rebounds.

Senior guard Kaleb Brown, the third Panther averaging in double figures this season, finished with six points. Even on a tough night, the big three had 26 of the 34 points.

“You’ve got to really think and make reads because they’re taking away your first and second option. We struggle with that at times,” Roberts said. “We saw some of the things we need to work on. It’s one thing to see it in practice, but now they saw it in a game.”

Senior guard Johnny Diaz led all scorers with 12, and had the burden of most of the ball handling against traps from Brown and Monroe.

He also got into foul trouble early. Senior guard Jacob Paige was forced into extra duty at point guard and chipped in four rebounds and committed few turnovers.

Like Cashion, Paige excelled in areas of the game that go beyond the box score.

“Ethan is so good at reading stuff. There was a time where we he was not getting it because teams were looking at it on film and the posts were not making a quick move,” Dunn said. “Jacob did a really good job tonight. I think Jacob seeing playing time against Shadow really helped him tonight.”

Dunn said the team’s four losses over the break – to Brooklyn (N.Y.) Thomas Jefferson and local 6A schools Chaparral and Perry in the Visit Mesa Basketball Challenge, along with the 75-52 defeat by three-time defending champion Shadow Mountain – helped the Skyhawks grow.

Tuesday’s win was the first sign of Deer Valley growing stronger through adversity.

“Shadow Mountain definitely was a challenge and we were ready for it. We played hard but they’re a lot quicker than us,” Cashion said. “It got us ready, this is the second semester. We’re going to buckle down and see if we can keep winning games.”

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