Deer Valley delivers lesson to young Demons

Deer Valley senior point guard Johnny Diaz is fouled while driving to the basket against Dysart on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018 at Dysart High School in El Mirage. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Dysart’s boys basketball team had grown up quickly in its 7-1 start despite being paced, at least statistically, by a freshman and two sophomores.

Tuesday night, Deer Valley visited and sped up their learning curve. The young Demons has not dealt with this type of length, depth of pressure defense.

Deer Valley (6-1 overall, 3-0 regular season) forced Dysart into a bevy of second-quarter turnovers. The Skyhawks held the home team to four points that quarter en route to a 33-18 halftime lead and 64-50 win.

Senior guard Johnny Diaz led the Skyhawks with 17 points, including three fourth-quarter buckets when the home team was getting a little too close for comfort.

“If I panic, my whole team is going to panic. I always try to stay cool. I tell them they’re going to make runs but we’re going to make runs too,” Diaz said.

Dysart (7-2, 3-1) was very much in it after a quarter, trailing 17-14. They were, however, locked down for the first 4:30 of the second quarter and trailed 27-14.

The visitors from Glendale found the range in this quarter also, as senior forward Jaret Allen, sophomore guard Jackson Leyba, senior guard Derek McDougal and senior guard Johnny Diaz all connected on three-point shots before half.

Also the Skyhawks attacked in waves, with nine different players scoring before the half.

“That was our third group that came in and took the lead. There’s not a big difference between 1 and 15 on this team, except for maybe the first three, it’s pretty even. In practice, that third group beats our first group a lot of times. It’s a nice luxury to have,” Deer Valley coach Jed Dunn said.

The lead grew to 23 points before Dysart began to dust itself off. Freshman guard Nathaniel Pickens had seven of his team-high 17 points in the quarter.

He’s teamed with sophomore forward Daryian Mathews and sophomore guard Riley Fornerette to lead the Demons offense while playing beyond their years.

“Nathaniel is a gamer and a natural scorer. These kids have seen that kind of defense and speed (in club ball). Maybe not that kind of length,” Dysart coach Keegan Cook said. “We knew that Deer Valley is a great defensive team that can scramble and they’re long. Not being scared was big for us. We had to take care of the ball and I think we did a better job of that in the second half.”

Leyba’s second three of the night pushed the Skyhawks’ lead to 55-35 early in the fourth quarter. But Dunn did not see many positives after that.

Thanks to threes by sophomore guard Santos Sanchez, senior guard Luke Fields and Pickens, the Demons cut their deficit to 12 in the final frame.

“Nate (Pickens) is really good for them as their point guard. His cousin is (Dorian) Pickens from Pinnacle (and more recently Stanford),” Dunn said. “They hit some threes in the fourth quarter. I’m upset with our guys right now. They let off the gas.”

This game against last year’s 5A runner-up and one of the top teams in the new 4A was the start of the Demons’ five-game December gauntlet.

Dysart has a week to rest and work before traveling to face another top 4A team from the West Valley in Peoria.

“We play Peoria and Estrella Foothills next week. Both teams are very difficult. Then we go to Lee Williams in Kingman and Moon Valley. Those five games will test us with really good teams. Being able to have those games before league, all of them competing for spots in the playoffs, will be good,” Cook said.

Dysart’s Daryian Mathews attempts a layup against Deer Valley on Tuesday at Dysart High School in El Mirage. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

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