BOYS HOOPS: Pusch Ridge beat Sahuarita 58-45 to stay perfect in the 3A Conference

January 16, 2019 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Hampered by a collapsing defense, Lucas Elliott took advantage of his size inside and he also kicked the ball out which helped lead to seven 3-pointers. (Andy Morales/

Pusch Ridge is off to the best start in program history thanks in part to a 58-45 win over Sahuarita at home on Wednesday night. The Lions are now 16-2 overall, 10-0 in power-ranking games and 3-0 in 3A South Region. The Lions are also ranked No. 2 in the 3A Conference, right behind No. 1 Chinle.

While the Lions are controlling the south for the moment, Chinle is practically running away with the 3A North Region with a 20-4 record overall, a 13-0 record in power-ranking games and a perfect 6-0 mark in region play. No. 21 Sahuarita is now 6-5 in power-ranking games and 2-1 in the 3A South after the loss to Pusch Ridge to fall into a second-place tie with No. 16 Safford in the region.

There is no play-in bracket at the 3A level so all teams will be seeded according to a 24-team bracket with the top two teams from each of the seven regions earning an automatic berth with the remaining 10 at-large berths to be handed out based on ranking.

Pusch Ridge jumped out to a 24-8 lead over Sahuarita but the Mustangs went on an 8-0 run of their own to cut the lead down to 24-16 with 3:11 left in the second quarter, only to have the Lions increase the lead to 32-21 heading into the locker room.

Pusch Ridge had balanced scoring in the first half with five players scoring five or more each, but the Mustangs lived outside the arc with Jason Encinas and Trey Meza connecting on two 3-pointers each to provide most of the offensive power for the team. Meza finished the night with a team-high 13 points and Byron Brown added 11, including a bucket with 49.2 seconds left in the third to cut the lead down to a slim 41-35 margin.

“We have to work on getting up and down next time we play them,” Brown said. “We need to play together more and take advantage of our experience together.”

The Mustangs beat No. 9 Sabino last week so it felt like everyone in the gym knew the lack of separation after three periods could be problematic for the Lions but the Mustangs only hit on one 3-pointer in the second half, and none in the fourth, which helped play to the interior size of the Lion defense. In the end, the Lions proved too much to overcome and Pusch Ridge went on for the 58-45 win.

Depending on who is in the game, Pusch Ridge has an interior that averages 6-foot-8 across the blocks with Lucas Elliott (6-10), Josiah Noller (6-6) and Scott Bumb (6-6) presenting a defensive and offensive challenge for opponents. As we have noted before, Elliott is the nephew of former University of Arizona and NBA standout Sean Elliott and he finished the night with 13 points, Noller had eight and Bumb added six.

“We have a lot of seniors now and this is our time to try to dominate,” Elliott said. “We are finally climbing to the top after playing with each other for so long. We work well together.”

The Lions also sport an excellent shooting attack and Breckin Kleinsasser led the way from the outside with four 3-pointers to end the night with 12 points, Brandon Ripperdan finished with 10 and Jared Stark had nine.

Benicio Mejia added 10, Encinas scored nine and Johannon Cervantes added a bucket to go along with the 13 points from Meza and the 11 from Brown.

Sahuarita will host Safford on Friday night and Pusch Ridge will travel to No. 39 Tanque Verde on the same night.