Pima’s Trey Thompson hits a layup in the second half of the state semifinals against Rancho Solano Prep. The Mustangs ended the Roughriders’ season, 59-47.
By Jon Johnson
PRESCOTT – For the second year in a row, the No. 1 Pima Roughriders (27-3) fell in the 2A State Championship semifinals as the No. 4 Rancho Solano Mustangs (26-5) loomed large and had several players come up big to push them forward to the championship game.
It was an uphill battle for Pima from the start, and they just couldn’t get anything clicking as they fell Friday night, 59-47.
It was rough early going for the Roughriders, who found themselves down 10 early in the first after the Mustangs’ 6’8” senior forward Nick Jackson and 6’3” sophomore guard Kiimani Holt threw down alley-oop dunks. Jackson is the 2A East Metro Region Player of the Year and has committed to play basketball for the Air Force Academy, but it was Holt who shone bright and finished with 15 points and five rebounds before exiting the game late in the fourth with an injury. Another surprise scorer was 6’ senior guard Caden Hoffman, who finished with 14 points.
The size of the Mustangs closed off the paint early as 6’9” sophomore Hunter Ruck had three blocks in a row. Ruck only scored two points all night, but he loomed large defensively by altering shots and ended up with five blocks on the night.
The Roughriders kept at it, however, and Pruszynski hit four free throws to go with a 3-pointer by Andrew Taylor to bring Pima back within 3, 9-12. The Roughriders kept pounding at it and got the Mustangs into foul trouble early as Jackson had to take a seat with two fouls at the 1:58 mark of the first period, and Ruck gathered his third foul with 5:13 left in the second period. While Pima was in the bonus, they failed to hit the front end of 1-1’s and ended up giving Rancho Solano another possession instead of cutting into the lead.
The Mustangs’ 6’4” senior guard Elijah Simmons then showed his range by hitting a 3 on one series and then posterizing Taylor on a dunk on another.
Pima finishes quarters, however, and it was no different in this big-time game as Trey Thompson crossed over 6’1” sophomore guard Tyson Legner and stuck a 3-pointer just before the buzzer. At the end of the first Pima had climbed back but was still down 19-14.
Pruszynski showed his speed opening the second period as he zipped by Ruck and hit a layup to bring Pima within 3, 19-16. Pruszynski finished with a game-high 21 points to go along with seven rebounds.
It wasn’t long before Rancho Solano built the lead back up to 10, however, and Pima was down 28-18 midway through the second period.
Pima came back with 3’s by Hayden Ashby and Frank Gutierrez and a slick blow by layup by Thompson, who finished with 15 points. But this time it was the Mustangs who finished the quarter as a ball was saved going out of bounds and Rancho Solano hit a short jumper to go back up 9 at halftime, 35-26.
The Mustangs put on the gas in the third period as they stretched their lead to 15, 49-34.
Rancho did so with their star, Jackson, riding the pine for most of the time after Manny Ramirez took a charge from Jackson, who gathered his third foul on the play with 6:33 to go in the period. Jackson later picked up his fourth foul on a loose ball and really had very little impact in the game and finished with just 6 points and two rebounds.
Pruszynski was the lone bright spot in the third as he continued to hit down low but had little assistance.
On the other side of the ball, it was yet another Mustang coming up big as Legner hit back-to-back 3-pointers.
Trey Thompson hit a couple of 3’s down the stretch and Pruszynski hit one from deep in the fourth as well, but it was too much to overcome as Legner, who finished with 11 points, hit four consecutive free throws and Rancho Solano ended Pima’s season in the semifinals, 59-47.
Rancho Solano will now face No. 3 Alchesay for the championship Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Prescott Valley Event Center.