QUEEN CREEK – It was a 3A conference battle between two top 10 teams in third ranked American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek and No.7 San Tan Foothills.
In a back-and-forth battle that could have gone in favor of the Sabercats ended in a 59-52 loss.
“I thought it was very competitive,” San Tan Foothills coach Joe Galish said. “There at the very end we just couldn’t make free throws and layups, it’s a simple game.”
The Sabercats were down one point in the fourth quarter. ALA Queen Creek’s Devon Brooke and Dyson Lighthall extended the lead to 50-46 before Joseph Padilla was fouled and knocked down one free throw.
Isaiah Delt later drew a foul with 4:32 remaining as San Tan Foothills was still four points behind. Delt missed both free throws, however, the Sabercats did get the rebound but after three put attempts, Delt returned to the line after being fouled.
This time, the senior knocked down both shots two bring the Sabercats within two.
With less than three minutes remaining Delt was again at the stripe for two shots and split them to make it 50-49, with his team still trailing.
“Our team is smart and scrappy, and they compete,” Galish said. “I like how we play defense most of the time and we’ll fight for loose balls and rebound. I think that we’re really a smart team but again we need to learn how to finish a little bit better.”
Kevin Tucker had the opportunity to give San Tan Foothills the lead but missed the go-ahead jumper with 2:20 left to play.
On the opposite end of the court, Lighthall knocked down a shot, but it was still a one possession game. Michael Jolley attempted to extend the Patriots lead expect he missed a layup.
Jacob Bello was fouled after he grabbed the rebound and looked to push the ball up the court for San Tan Foothills and ended up at the free throw line where he missed both shots.
Bello had a chance to redeem himself with less than a minute remaining but missed the jumper.
ALA Queen Creek didn’t have any trouble with its free throws which is what ultimately hurt the Sabercats.
“Both teams are pretty familiar with each other and there’s obviously a lot of game film out there between the two of us, so we understand that ALA is a great team and well coached,” Galish said. “… In the end if you don’t put the ball in the basket you’re not going to win.”
San Tan Foothills held the lead for most of the first half and led 31-29 at halftime. Brooke’s 10 points in the third quarter held push the Patriots ahead as the Sabercats only scored 14 points as a team in the quarter.
Padilla finished with 15 points for San Tan Foothills and Tucker added 18.
Brooke led all scorers with 27 points and Lighthall finished with 14.
“I’m confident in our team and I’m confident that it’s going to do some good things and we just need to get back to the gym and learn how to close out against really good opponents,” Galish said.