Consistency continues to be the missing key to unlocking the Camp Verde High School boys basketball team’s best side brand of play.
Hosting the Yvonne Johnson Memorial tournament on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 29 and 30, the Cowboys [4-4 power-point games] went 2-2 en route to a third place finish.
After taking third with a 72-70 win over Round Valley High School, head coach Dan Wall talked about making smarter decisions on offense and being tougher defensively for longer stretches.
“Those are the two things that we’ve been preaching all season, but particularly this weekend,” Wall said. “I guess we defended well in segments. There were certain times when we really locked in and we decided that we were going to stay in front, we were going to box out, we were going to be off from the weak side, all the little stuff that we preach. And we look pretty good when we do that; we just do it in spurts.”
That final game was a microcosm of that notion; the Cowboys went down 23-13 after the first quarter. They missed shots while giving up plenty of looks close to the basket for the Elks.
Round Valley also pressured the ball full court, and in the second quarter Camp Verde handled that and began to chip away.
The Cowboys went on a 13-1 run behind seven points from sophomore guard Jason Collier while sophomore guard Jordan Littlefield converted a three-point play and senior guard Chase Decker hit a three-pointer.
Despite shifting the tide, it gave the hosts just a two-point advantage at 26-24. The Elks went on a run of their own to end the half up 37-32.
The third quarter saw Camp Verde tie the score five times. For every one of its baskets, Round Valley answered.
In the fourth quarter, Cowboys junior guard Ismael Hogan finished an and-1 opportunity and Collier hit a three to open a 61-55 lead. They would trail twice in the quarter, the latter at 70-69 with less than a minute left.
Coming out of a timeout, Cowboys junior center Dayton Smith converted a three-point play underneath with 24 seconds left and got a defensive stop to nab the win. Collier and Hogan each scored a team-high 21 points.
Camp Verde beat Bourgade Catholic High School for the second time in as many occasions, the first in the form of a 61-50 comeback home win on Dec. 7, the second by a 52-50 margin in the tournament opener.
However the team suffered consecutive losses afterwards. It lost 60-46 to Williams High School to finish play on Dec. 29. Taking on 3A Tuba City High School in the morning game on Dec. 30, Wall said that it was his team’s best offensive performance.
Still, the Warriors defeated the Cowboys 63-54 to set up a third-place matchup with Round Valley High School. Collier scored 20 against Tuba City and 17 against Bourgade Catholic, landing him on the all-tournament team.
“There were flashes of good offensive play all week, against Tuba that was our best game overall offensively as far as our decision making and guys giving it up for the betterment of the team,” Wall said.
Another bright spot was the return of sophomore All-Central Region guard Abe Gonzalez from his shoulder injury. Gonzalez played limited minutes in the two games on Dec. 30, finishing with 12 points, half on three-pointers, three steals, three rebounds and a chase-down block in transition.
Camp Verde opens Central Region play with a 7 p.m. tipoff at home against Glendale Preparatory Academy.
“Our region is tough. From the boys side, the level is very high. We keep preaching to the kids we’ve got to continue working on our process and our details, and we’ll kind of see what happens when we get there,” Wall said. “But Glendale Prep will be a pretty good indication on Friday of where we’re at and what are some things that we need to continue to do to compete and what are some things that are going well.”