Ray Brewer and Case Keefer look over the high school basketball playoff picture, and debate whether any major upsets will occur and which teams would be most likely to pull them off.
Before the Canyon Springs High basketball team took the court for the Sunrise Regional semifinals, coach Freddie Banks brought his players together in the home locker room for a pep talk:
“I told the kids, my seniors, I have eight of them, ‘Don’t come in this locker room crying at the end of the game. You have to play hard,’” he said.
The Pioneers quickly responded in building a 10-point lead after the first quarter, using a game-high 41 points from Kevin Legardy and 30 points from backcourt mate Alexander Spaight in a 96-87 victory against visiting Liberty.
Canyon Springs advances to Saturday’s Sunrise championship game against Coronado, which beat Foothill 87-75 in the other semifinal game behind 37 points from freshman Jaden Hardy.
Canyon Springs led 44-29 at halftime, but Liberty sophomore Julian Strawther helped the Patriots erase the deficit with four 3-pointers in the third quarter. At one stage of the game, Strawther and Legardy — two of the Sunrise’s best players — were matching one another basket-for-basket.
It produced excitement and drama worthy of an elimination game.
“Before the game, we knew each (team) was going to make their run,” Legardy said. “We knew a playoff game would go like that. We had to keep our composure and play smart.”
Canyon Springs pulled away in the fourth quarter, when Legardy and Spaight had the ball in their hands most of the way. Spaight scored in double-digits in the final quarter, including 10-of-10 on free throws.
“Kevin and Alexander have been playing well for us all season,” Banks said. “We hope and pray that we can come back Saturday and do the same thing.”
Coming back Saturday means battling Coronado’s Hardy, who has scored at will during most games this season. In the win against Foothill, he made jump shots from a few steps beyond the 3-point line.
“Hardy emerged tonight as a leader,” Coronado coach Jeff Kaufman said. “He was picking his teammates up and he was moving the basketball. For a freshman to do that, he really emerged as a leader.”
Liberty had three scorers reach at least 20 points in the loss, including a team-high 26 from Cameron Burist. Strawther and Terrance Marigney each had 23 points.