Central, Chavez advance to PUHSD finals

The PUHSD basketball tournament picked up it's action Monday at the host, North High School with some more exciting action as many of the top high school basketball programs in the state faced off with one another.

Central HS senior guard DaLan Stafford pumped in 31 points to lead his team to the finals of this year's PUHSD tournament.
Very different in it's look and feel from last week's Horizon Invitational, the annual Phoenix Union High School Basketball Tournament (PUHSD) is a very nice event for the Arizona basketball enthusiast, as it involves many of Arizona's top inner-city basketball programs. The competition is fierce, and each of the teams seem to be loaded with a lot of undiscovered talent on their rosters - making for a lot of excitement for the fans in attendance.

Any game in such an event can bring about a breakout performance from an unheralded prospect.

Monday evening, one such prospect was Central High School's 6-foot-1 senior guard DaLan Stafford. Stafford would pump in an impressive 31 points to lead Central HS to the finals of this year's PUHSD tournament with a narrow 77-75 win over host North HS, the defending 5A D-I State Champions.

Stafford has had an excellent senior season thus far, and Monday evening he proved that he is among the best individual talents in the state of Arizona, as he willed his team to a big win over a talented North team.

North would take a 19-18 first quarter lead, behind the strong play of 6-foot-7, 260-pound senior post Alan Williams (UC-Santa Barbara signee).

Stafford would keep Central in the game early with several nice slashing drives to the basket. As a result, Central would keep pace with North, while star 6-foot-4 senior forward Robert Selmon was under wraps by North's defensive pressure.

Central would take a 10-point lead, 36-26, with 1:57 remainning in the first half after a strong, athletic dunk by 6-foot-4, 175-pound senior forward Mitchell Burnett on the break, and another nice mid-range jumpshot from Stafford.

Alan Williams would keep North close in the half, after a three-point play in transition after being fouled.

Central would take a 42-33 halftime lead.

With North fighting hard to come back in front of nice-sized North home crowd, Stafford would keep it going for the Bobcats, as he would hit a three-pointer with 5:56 left in the third period - giving Central a 49-41 lead.

But North would fight hard and come back behind Williams' toughness and desire to win. North would close the gap to one-point, 53-52 after consecutive baskets by Williams.

Both teams would go into the fourth and final period with the score tied, 58-58.

The score would remain tied, until late in the fourth period when 5-foot-9 senior guard would convert a three-point basket from the wing - giving Central HS a 72-69 lead with 3 minutes left to play in the game.

Alan Williams would again bring his team back in the game with consecutive inside baskets late in the game, making the score 76-75, Central, with :13 seconds remainning in regulation.

North would foul Central's Stafford, sending him to the line with the chance to put Central afead by three points, but Stafford would convert 1 of 2 free throws, giving Central a 77-75 lead.

North would draw up one last play to tie the game, but would miss a floater at the buzzer.

Final score, 77-75, as Central would advance to the PUHSD finals Tuesday evening.

DaLan Stafford would finish with a team-high 31 points in the win, while Robert Selmon would contribute 14 points in the win. While I did not have the final scoring for North's Alan Williams, it looked to be better than a 30+ point performance on the evening.

Tuesday evening, Central will face a tough and very talented Cesar Chavez HS team in the finals. Chavez squeaked past a gritty Fairfax HS team in the other semi-final game Monday evening, 75-71.

5-foot-9, 160-pound junior point guard Lejon Johnson with connect on a three-pointer to put Fairfax HS ahead late in the game, 58-57, with two minutes left to play in the game.

Cesar Chavez 6-foot-6 junior post LJ Harmon would score an inside basket late in the game to put Chavez back in front, 59-58, with just over a minute left in the game.

Fairfax talented 6-foot-4 senior guard Pierre Newton, after scoring several late baskets for his team, would make it happen again, with a nice driving basket over a defender to tie the game, 62-62.

The basket would send the game into overtime, but Chavez would earn the 75-71 overtime victory after two big three-point baskets in overtime by 5-foot-10 junior guard JD Reagan.

With the narrow defeat, Fairfax proved that they are a team to be wreckoned with this season in the 5A Division, as they are loaded with athleticism and individually talented prospects.

Tuesday should be another eventful day at North HS, as Cesar Chavez and Central face off for the tournament crown.