The Wolverines edged out Freedom 90-84.
Senior guard Olajuwon Garner had the hot hand for Deer Valley (18-7, 8-1 BVAL), pouring in seven three-point shots, scoring 34 total points. Deer Valley never trailed in the game, and while Freedom made several runs to close the gap, nearly every one was immediately neutralized by a Garner bomb from downtown.
“We just executed the offense and played hard D,” Garner said. “I was on tonight – that’s just how it goes. We’re going to make some noise in the playoffs. We’re playing pretty good.”
Garner had lots of help. Senior guard Dylan Williams and junior forward Kendall Smith each scored 19 points, while junior power forward Marcus Lee notched 13.
Freedom’s effort would have been good enough to handily beat most of the teams they’ll play in the postseason. The Falcons (19-6, 7-2 BVAL) scored 84 and remained close despite scoring only eight points in the first quarter, losing the three-point battle 10-4, fielding no big man anywhere near Lee’s size, and missing a top player in junior guard Sam Bide, out with an apparent ankle injury for a significant stretch of the second and third quarters.
Sophomore forward Elliot Smith led Freedom with 21 points. Joining him in double digits were Bide (15), senior guard Jehiah Gennaro (14), junior guard James O’Neal (13) and junior center Ramiro Contreras (12).
None of this surprised Deer Valley head coach LeChet Phillips, who kept his team focused on its offense. “We can score,” Phillips said. “We didn’t focus on their runs. We knew they were going to make them; they’re a very good team and have a lot of good offensive players over there. We just knew that when they made theirs, we had to come back with our own.”
Despite the loss, Freedom will still easily qualify for the playoffs. The Falcons are currently tied with rival Liberty for second place. That tie will be broken Thursday when the Lions host the Falcons.
Barring an upset loss to Pittsburg in Thursday’s league finale, Deer Valley will lock up the BVAL title. According to Phillips, that will likely be good enough for a No. 2 seed in the NCS playoffs.
“I feel like we’ll make a good run,” Lee said of his team. “As long as we stay together, we’ll keep winning.”
The night wasn’t a complete loss for the Falcons. The Falcons’ junior varsity team downed the Deer Valley JVs 69-54.