5A D-II semi-final preview - Game 2

Wednesday evening at Glendale's Jobing.com Arena will be another exciting night of playoff basketball action, as the 5A Division-II state playoffs will continue with the semi-finals.

6-foot-2 senior guard Randy Azuogh will need a big game Wednesday evening to help the Wolves advance.
While each of the other smaller divisions have now concluded their seasons, it is now time for the state's bigger schools in the 5A Class to take their turn on the state's main stage in front of large crowds and media in attendance.

First, the 5A Division-II Class will take center stage Wednesday evening, as the division's top four seeds each will face off in exciting fashion and in what has shaped up to be two very interesting games.

Here is my preview of tonight's second exciting semi-final match-up (scheduled for 8PM) between #2 seed Desert Mountain HS and #3 seed Fairfax HS ...

#2 Desert Mountain HS (21-7) vs #3 Fairfax HS (21-7)

Both these two teams have had very good seasons this year, and while they both have identical records on the season and look similar on paper, they are two very different teams.

Since their last loss on the season, a narrow overtime defeat to Chaparral HS, Desert Mountain has won it's last four games, including another narrow victory - a playoff win over Horizon HS (75-72).

Desert Mountain has a very well-balanced offensive attack as Head Coach Todd Fazio has implemented a very unselfish offensive style to his program, utilizing a wealth of players to get the job done. Leading the way for the Wolves this season is 6-foot-6, 181-pound senior forward Peter Smith (14.9 ppg & 5.4 rpg). Smith is the catalyst for this team, as he is the team's leading scorer and best offensive threat around the basket area. Smith is also an explosive athlete and a good shooter of the basketball with range. Smith will be expected to have a big game tonight.

6-foot-2 senior guard Randy Azuogu (10.4 ppg & 3.8 rpg) is the team's second leading scorer and has had a very good season for himself. Azuogu is the team's best perimeter scoring threat, and also is a good slasher and finisher around the basket. He is also one of the state's most unheralded prospects.

Desert Mountain also gets excellent support from 6-foot-6 junior Austin Cooke (7.4 ppg & 3.1 rpg), 6-foot-3 sophomore Diego Magana (6.6 ppg) and 6-foot-6 junior Connor Johnson (5.7 ppg & 4.0 rpg).

Among the most important contributors to the Wolves' success this season has been 5-foot-10 senior point guard Alec Savage. While not scoring much in points, Savage has been the floor general for this year's team, as well as the team's best on-the-ball defender. Savage's selfless approach to the game has been the leading factor in the team's success this season.

Fairfax HS has been red hot as of late, winning 9 of their last 10 games. A newer program, Fairfax has become one of the state's top basketball programs in a short amount of time.

Fairfax is loaded with individual athletic talent and is a deep team. A trio of players lead the way for the team, as do-it-all 6-foot-4, 180-pound senior combo-guard Pierre Newton (16.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg & 3.5 apg), 5-foot-9 senior point guard Lejon Johnson (13.4 ppg, 4.3 apg & 2.7 steals) and 6-foot-6, 235-pound senior post Marcel Govan (13.3 ppg & 8.3 rpg) have led the way for the Stampede all season.

Newton is the catalyst for the team and is a very good scorer and slasher, capable of playing either guard spot on the floor. Newton is at his best from mid-range off the dribble or in the open floor, where he is capable of scoring points in bunches. Newton is one of the lesser known names among basketball enthusiasts in the state, but his accmplishments this season have changed that, as he is now one of the better unsigned senior guard prospects in the state.

Johnson is among the quickest guard prospects on both ends of the floor. He is as athletic as they get for his size and creates problems for opposing teams. Difficult to match up with, Johnson is the engine for the Stampede's fast-breaking style of play.

Govan is one of the state's bigger bodies and is a load on the offensive glass, where he is difficult to keep on the boards. Not relied on to score heavily, Govan gets most of his offensive production from offensive rebounds and baskets inside the paint. While he is still developing his offensive skills, Govan makes this team much tougher to defend when he is one the floor, and not in foul trouble.

Also providing good scoring and rebounding support for Fairfax will be 6-foot-5, 185-pound junior forward Marquice Coleman (7.5 ppg & 7.2 rpg). Coleman is a good up and coming prospect for the future and is a big part of this team's success this season.

Desert Mountain and Fairfax are two very different teams. Desert Mountain is very structured and methodical, while Fairfax plays with wreckless abandon and likes to get out and run on every opportunity. The team that dictates the style of play in the game tonight will have a much better chance of winning.

Fairfax relies much more on their core group of players to be successful, while Desert Mountain is deep with contributing players and will throw many guys at Fairfax tonight. If Desert Mountain can get Fairfax into foul trouble, it could be a tough night for the Stampede.

Both teams are very different in their makeup, so it will be a very interesting game to see which team is able to dictate what they want to do.

Prediction: Desert Mountain (+5)

Desert Mountain has had an excellent season as a result of their depth and ability to defend the perimeter. Look for Desert Mountain to play a zone defense against Fairfax and force the Stampede to beat them from the perimeter. If Fairfax can beat the zone they will be very successful and this prediction will be wrong, but I believe they will not be able to handle the depth of Desert Mountain as well as the strong team play of the Wolves.