Tempe High boys basketball coach Tom Saltzstein wasn’t exactly thrilled about the way junior forward Emmanuel Gant was playing in the Buffaloes’ Division II quarterfinal game against Phoenix Arcadia on Wednesday night (Feb. 26).
Tempe, the second seed, had let a lead slip away and was fighting for survival against the 23rd-seeded Titans.
“He has a couple of bad passes and soft shots. He knew (he needed to step it up),’’ Saltzstein said. “He told me, “Coach, I’ll lead us.’ ’’
Gant, who also plays quarterback for Tempe’s football team, was true to his word.
Gant made a couple of key steals toward the end of regulation and drilled a pair of 3-pointers in overtime and Tempe survived with a 77-71 victory at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
Tempe (27-2) will meet third-seeded Flagstaff in a semifinal game on Thursday (Feb. 27) at 4:15 p.m. Arcadia finished 16-12.
“Gant was huge,’’ understated Saltzstein.
Guard Delano Jones, one of four junior starters, also had a major contribution.
He finished with 31 points, including several 3-pointers.
Jones and his teammates certainly are not bashful when putting the ball up from long distance.
Saltzstein, in his first year at Tempe after coaching at Gilbert Mesquite, likes the up-tempo game but didn’t always have that type of personnel at his previous school.
He knew Arcadia would not be a pushover despite its seed. Saltzstein, in fact, was surprised to see the Titans seeded where they were.
“What wasn’t a surprise was how hard they play,’’ said Saltzstein, whose team defeated Arcadia 83-72 on Dec. 3.
Gant finished with 16 points and Kalun White had 10.
Avonte Nelms scored 19 to lead Arcadia and Patrick Stafford and Connor Nichols each had 13.
The Tempe players will be able to wear their neon pink warm-up shirts for at least one more game.
In black print are the words, “Buffalo Brotherhood: Once a Buffalo, always a Buffalo.’’