By George Witkowski
For West Valley Preps
The Dysart Demons basketball team (19-7) used every bit of effort and determination to reach the first round of the 4A boys playoffs.
The game was close the entire way with no one holing more than a six point lead, but the Demons pulled away in the final eight seconds on free throws by senior Jordan Lopez for a 60-55 win over the 10-17 Tempe Marcos de Niza Padres in play-in action.
If the 4A boys seedings from before Tuesday held Demons are likely to face Goodyear Estrella Foothills 6:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at Estrella Foothills. Estrella defeated Dysart, 62-51, Dec. 7 in their only meeting.
Dysart coach Keegan Cook said he was pleased with how the 2017-18 team has progressed.
“We’re having a good season and we hope to continue it, against most likely Estrella Foothills,” Cook said. “I thought we did a great job effort-wise, execution-wise we can do better. We had a really good crowd and that kept our guys going.”
The Dysart side was completely full for the 4A boys play-in game.
“It’s postseason and it’s a playoff atmosphere, and we have to come out with the same intensity Wednesday night,” Cook said. “We’ll watch film and talk and we’ve got to do a better job of rebounding.”
Two players, both captains, that played an integral role in Dysart’s win were senior forward Benson Atem and senior guard Raphael Alvarado.
“Today, we played well, and the next game we’ve got to come out strong, but we got a “W,” Atem said. “There’s pressure being a captain, but everyone knows their roles.”
Both teams shot 46 percent (12 of 26) from the floor in the first half as Dysart took a 33-30 lead. The Padres grabbed take a 26-20 lead less than six minutes until halftime, but the Demons rallied behind two baskets from Alvarado and another by senior guard Louis Haman to knot the score at 26 with just over three minutes left in the quarter.
The Demons completed their 13-0 run on a basket with just under a minute remaining before the Padres scored twice to close out the half.
Both teams went back and forth with the lead in the third quarter until Dysart held a 43-42 advantage entering the fourth quarter.
It appeared as if it was anyone’s game to win as Marcos senior guard Chris Terrell hit a three-point shot to even the score at 50 with less than three minutes remaining. Dysart went on a 6-0 run on a basket and two free throws by Alvarado and basket from Haman with 1:48 left and held on from there.
Haman led the Demons with 17 points and Alvarado finished with 16 points.
Alvarado was glad everyone gave a little extra in the win.
“We played with heart and left everything on the floor,” Alvarado said. “Before the game I told the team this is our house, and we play as brothers, and once we communicate that’s where we’re strongest.
“It was good competition out there and we just executed better, and slowed down and played our game.”