SAN TAN VALLEY — The battle for San Tan Valley added another chapter in its history Friday night, this time on the basketball court as the Combs Coyotes hosted their cross-town rival Poston Butte. Both teams battled hard, exchanging leads and playing a tough, gritty style, but it was the Broncos edging out the win, 54-41.

Both teams had trouble getting the ball in the basket in the first half, with neither team being able to find a competitive edge to pull away. Although the offense was lacking at times, the defense was stout on both sides of the floor.

Junior guard Hunter Clare aggressively attacked the boards all night, ending up with 12 rebounds, as well as putting in 12 points for his team, securing a double-double.

“Hunter is great; he is the valedictorian for his class as well, and he is really coachable,” Combs coach Ben Johnson said. “He is a football kid, so he knows what competition is about. He does exactly what we want him to do and never slows down.”

Another football player turned basketball starter for Poston Butte is guard Drew Dalmacio. The senior is fresh off taking the Broncos to their first ever state championship appearance in the gridiron, and is now producing on the hardwood.

“(Dalmacio) is just starting to get going right now. He is spending extra time in the gym; he is a very dedicated athlete,” Broncos coach Rob Walker said. “It is huge to have his leadership on the floor. The first thing he said to me after the game was we have to play better against (Combs) next time. He is one of those really good kids. I’m lucky to have him on the team.”

The Coyotes took a slim two point lead going into the second half, but the Broncos’ relentless play style and ability to hit consecutive shots was the deciding factor as the Broncos secured a double digit lead late in the fourth, and sealed the win.

“This is a tough place to play,” Walker said, speaking of the loud atmosphere inside the Combs gym. “Combs is a really good team and they are really well coached, and they play with a lot of grit. I’m glad we got the win, and I’m just really glad our guys stepped up in the second half.”

For Johnson, the loss was a tough one to swallow after having a slight edge going into the second half, saying that the team just has to get better in situations like that.

“The first half was great, and we just have to build on that,” Johnson said. “It just got away from us in the third quarter; we just fell apart. It was tough without our leadership out there tonight.”

For the Broncos, the win takes their record 7-9, while Combs will fall to 5-14. Poston Butte will get a chance to heal up before they hit the floor again on the road against region rival Scottsdale Coronado on Wednesday, while Combs will be on the road as well, taking on Vista Grande on Monday.

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David Church is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. He can be reached at dchurch@pinalcentral.com.

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