QUEEN CREEK - As the saying goes: to be the man, you’ve got to beat the man.

Ranked 18th in the 3A Conference standings coming into Monday night’s matchup against No. 4 Thatcher, American Leadership Academy-Ironwood had a prime opportunity to leapfrog a few spots. They seized the moment and pulled off a 46-36 win.

With a fervent defensive effort and an unbridled willingness to chase down several 50/50 balls, the contest felt like an old school basketball game on the Warriors’ part. With that, they managed to do what no other team has done to the Eagles all season - limit their scoring.

The Eagles came into the game with a 10-3 record and have scored 50 or more every time they've hit the floor this season. Limiting them to 36 points to a combination of wearing them down and heart from ALA-Ironwood head coach Ryan McCurdy’s squad.

“I just liked our defensive focus in this game," McCurdy said. "That’s really who we’re going to be this season and if we can defend, we’ll be in a lot of these games. The boys came out and held this Thatcher team to 36 points. That’s pretty good.”

The game ended similarly to how it started, with the Warriors (9-7) controlling the tempo and getting under the Eagles’ skin; they limited the Eagles to just eight and five points in the first and fourth quarters, respectively.

Specifically, McCurdy credited his point guard, Caden Edgerton, with chasing down Thatcher’s point guard and of their biggest threats, Brandon Napier, and applying a full court press. It was a microcosm of the pressure they applied all night as the Eagles’ legs grew tired from playing their fourth game in six days.

What makes the feat even more impressive is that the Warriors held off a third quarter surge by the Eagles in which they cut the lead down to one point.

A collapsing lead was a familiar feeling for the Warriors who had coughed up some late leads already this season, but they flipped the script and never relinquished the lead to the Eagles.

“That’s actually been an area where we’ve lost some games early this season when teams have made a run like that,” McCurdy said. “I’m pretty proud of the group (for finding) a way because they cut it to one point. We were able to keep that lead and extend it and that was with our leading scorer Andy Allen on the bench in foul trouble.”

Before he hit the bench, Allen had been a menace in the post on both sides of the ball. The 6-6 senior limited production from the Eagles’ bigs and scored 10 points in the first half.

Joining him in double-digits was Elijah Taylor with 12 points and an and-one that extended their lead to seven with just over three minutes to go.

The Warriors are now 5-3 on the season and hope to take the momentum from their upset win into Friday night’s meeting with Coolidge.


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