Apache Junction boys basketball split its four games in the Central Arizona Holiday Classic, held Dec. 27-20 at Casa Grande Union.
The tournament used a four-pool format, with the winners playing in the final four. Apache Junction did not win its pool, and played a cross-pool game against Eloy Santa Cruz to finish the tournament.
The Prospectors (4-14 overall, No. 37 AIA 4A Power Poll) completed play with a 66-35 win over 2A Santa Cruz on Dec. 30. AJ jumped to a 24-10 lead after one quarter, extending their lead to 34-14 at the half before blowing the game open with a 20-point third quarter.
Evan Quiroz topped the Prospectors’ scoring with 22 points (including five 3-pointers), followed by Jimari Grayson with 10 (on 5-of-7 field goal shooting), Trevor Bayer with nine (on three 3-pointers), Khadar Sheikh with eight and Brigham Milkey with six.
Sheikh, a junior transfer from Imagine Prep-Superstition, saw his first action for AJ in the tournament after sitting out the first part of the schedule due to the AIA transfer rule. He also grabbed nine rebounds against the Dust Devils.
“On the last day, we played Santa Cruz Valley and had our best game in a while,” Prospectors Coach Scott Stansberry said. “We were making shots and playing good defense. We got Khadar Sheikh going into this tournament and for the second half of the season. His size was helpful and he altered lots of shots.
“Now we just have to learn to play with him.”
Quiroz had seven boards, and Grayson added five assists and two steals. Milkey had six rebounds, two assists and two steals.
AJ VS. CAMPO VERDE
On Dec. 29, the Prospectors fell behind early against 5A Gilbert Campo Verde, dropping a 59-29 verdict. The Coyotes held a 41-16 lead at halftime. Quiroz led AJ with 13 points, and Dayton Baldwin grabbed six rebounds. Campo Verde is 10-6.
AJ VS. MONUMENT VALLEY
The Prospectors earned a 63-58 victory over 3A Kayenta Monument Valley on Dec. 28. AJ jumped to an early lead, but the Mustangs (3-11) battled back and kept it close before the Prospectors outlasted them with a 23-21 fourth quarter.
Quiroz and Bayer led AJ with 18 and 14 points, respectively, with Sheikh, Milkey and Nicolas Moor head each contributing eight points. Quiroz and Bayer combined for all five Prospector 3-pointers.
Grayson added seven points, five rebounds and three assists; Sheikh led AJ with 11 rebounds. Moorhead collected three of AJ’s eight steals, with Milkey and Carlos Orengo getting two each.
“Our first game against Youngker, we just played flat and with no energy,” Stansberry said. “On the second day against Monument Valley, we played way more inspired and with a lot of energy. On the third day against Campo Verde, we just couldn’t score. We got a lot of good looks but the ball just wouldn’t go through the hoop. Just one of those days.”
AJ VS. YOUNGKER
Apache Junction opened the tournament on Dec. 27 with a 75-46 defeat at the hands of 4A Buckeye Youngker (3-10). The Prospectors trailed by four points after one quarter, but the Roughriders outscored AJ 31-14 over the second and third quarters.