By: Joshua Gerard Gargiulo
PHOENIX - Forty-four points by Chandler-Gilbert guard Kendrick Williams is not enough to topple Men’s basketball. As the Bears outlast the Coyotes, 94-85.
Forty seconds into the game, head coach Duane Eason subbed Michael Walcott in for Habib Arogundade. Immediately, Walcott recorded a rebound and the first points of the game- a three. With the help of sophomore guard Kenny Sutton, who had a career-night, the two kept PC together during the Chandler-Gilbert’s first-quarter assault.
Williams and Chandler-Gilbert caught the bears off-guard with three steals in the first five minutes. Teammates Ilisia Washington and Joe Abiakam helped in spreading the offensive flow, serving as second and third scoring options in Chandler-Gilbert’s game plan- throughout the night. Abiakam finished the night with 16 points, 7 rebounds; Washington finished with 14 points, 3 assists.
Around eight minutes in, the coyotes of Chandler-Gilbert saw their lead increase to six. Only until a string of baskets from Habib Arogundade, Darius Goudeau and Kenny Sutton evened the bears out at 15.
Marching up the floor, an outlet pass finds Ahmed Levon for a corner three. Before the ball touches the net, Levon is seen sprinting back on defense; in anticipation of the speedy Kendrick Williams, who is constantly looking for a way to push the ball up the floor. As he flies past four PC defenders, Levon stands tall under the hoop, ready to contest a lay-up. Somehow Williams double-clutches and kisses the ball off-the-glass, bringing the coyotes within three.
Right there, the bears picked up on a distinctive pattern in Chandler-Gilbert’s scoring. With 5:00 left in the first half, only three players had scored more than one basket. The evidence was clear as day that they must limit those three guys (Williams, Washington and Abiakam) from scoring.
“We didn’t do our job defensively, in the first half,” coach Eason said. “We put ourselves in a bad position, and it allowed those guys to get off more than we wanted them too… Too many blown assignments.”
The first-year head coach didn’t feel anything was altered in the last portion of the first half, they “just got more stops.” He added how stops can be crucial in keeping a game close. In the last seven minutes, Chandler-Gilbert went 1-7 from the floor. The bears took a 42-35 lead into halftime.
Chandler-Gilbert came out of the gate swinging. Led by Kendrick Williams, the coyotes saw themselves within one point of the lead, in the first two minutes. Multiple steals from the star guard, who finished with six, gave the momentum instantaneous shift. Pushing forward, the coyotes turned a seven-point deficit, into a three-point lead. But the bears knew all they had to do was contain the scoring- somewhat.
“They average 66 points-per-game. Once you get over that average, by more than like 10 points, now you’re kinda in an area you’re not comfortable with. You’re used to making tough plays at 65, 66, 67, 68… It’s different when you’re trying to make those same plays in the 80s,” Eason said.
The teams went basket-for-basket throughout the second portion of play. It took a missed opportunity at an and-one, to knock the superstar Williams off his pedestal; giving the bears a chance to right their wrongs.
With 12:00 remaining, the bears flipped the switch on the coyotes. Kenny Sutton found the holes in Chandler-Gilbert’s defense and scored a quick lay-up, followed by two free throws. Michael Walcott came in the clutch with a three from the elbow. Soon, it felt as if the turnovers had never even been a factor with the bears’ up by six.
The lead slipped for a moment; but following a Darius Goudeau three with five minutes left, a huge block from Deron Kyle stopped a go-ahead bucket by Kendrick Williams. Although the coyotes kept possession, moments later, Habib Arogundade swiped the ball; allowing for a Deron Kyle two on the other end.
Despite a quiet game from Darius Goudeau, the final five minutes is the most critical time to find your shot. He did just that. After grabbing a rebound from a Blake Williams miss, with about 3:00 minutes left, he netted a deep-two to put the bears back up- by six.
In the closing two minutes, it was about matching what Chandler-Gilbert did. As Joe Abiakam made a basket, Kenny Sutton answered with a two- right back. You could call Eason a “fortune-teller” because once the score hit 70s for the coyotes, the “fatigue” and “nervousness” set in. Following a stellar shooting performance, Chandler-Gilbert failed to convert on their final six attempts. After a slew of misses, the coyotes laid down after a hard-fought 38 minutes.
Kenny Sutton finished the night with 26 points (career-high), 7 assists and 4 steals. Coach Eason had high-praise for the second-year guard.
“His confidence is growing, especially with Tre hurt. It is almost a blessing to have Tre out, cause he is so confident- It forces some other guys to play- As a result, we are able to develop some of those players,” Eason said. “So many times, I’ve been on a team, where a guy has gone down late in the season, and guys are in disarray. With Tre being out so early, it allows for other players to step-up; and Kenny has done a great job with that.”
Eason did not forget about reigning “Player of the Week” Darius Goudeau. The sophomore forward was huge help “on the back end.” Despite being in foul trouble, Darius managed to record 13 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
Feeling like it comes down to “style of play,” he loves that his guys can alternate from man; to zone; to a press, in the matter of seconds.
“It becomes difficult to constantly change your game plan, when a team is repeatedly lining up in new sets.”
He recognizes players like Kendrick Williams “will get theirs.” It is what comes with the game of basketball. But it is about staying consistent on defense. That is what will bring the bears wins.
Men’s Basketball continues their home-stand, tomorrow at 7:00pm, against Scottsdale Community College. Tickets are $3 for Adults and $1 for students w/ ID.