Cholla coach Masai Dean did not see Salpointe Catholic’s 14-point win over Sahuaro at McKale Center two weeks ago in the MLK Classic.
Still, the Chargers’ third-year coach has watched enough film to know what he’s up against.
“They’ve got a good squad over there,” Dean said. “I tell these kids, they went to the championship game and returned everyone. It’s not going to be a walk in the park.”
It certainly won’t be. Tonight, the Chargers will go on the road and try to take down Salpointe (18-5), the top-ranked team in Division II. Tipoff is 7 p.m.
Cholla was 19-4 and ranked seventh before Thursday night’s game at Marana and is still fresh off a big 50-47 win at Ironwood Ridge last Friday. The Chargers have won 17 of their last 18 games.
While those wins have installed confidence, junior point guard Jorge Carrasco and senior center Luis Rodriguez said the lone loss in that stretch (to Catalina Foothills) showed there’s room for improvement.
Carrasco, a captain, leads the sixth-ranked Chargers in scoring (17.9), assists (5.2) and steals (2.6) per game. The 5-foot-9-inch guard has finished in double figures in all but three games this season. He has scored at least 20 points in eight games.
“He don’t care,” Dean said, “He’ll score 50 on his grandma.”
Rodriguez, in his fourth season on the varsity team, leads the Chargers with 9.4 rebounds a game and has nine double-doubles. He’s second on the team with 15.6 points per game.
Dean has enjoyed the leadership the 6-4 Rodriguez has brought to the squad.
“He’s a rock. He doesn’t complain, talk stuff, he doesn’t do anything but what he’s told to do,” Dean said.
Lual Magot, a 6-4 junior swingman is the team’s third-leading scorer with 14 points a game. Magot, who could grow to 7 feet based on family history, said keeping up the defensive intensity will be the key to beating the Lancers, whose only losses this season have come in tournament games.
Dean believes his team has struggled to play defense on a consistent basis, ultimately letting some teams hang around, but said his team rises to the occasion. In this case, a big occasion against Cameron Denson, who Dean considers to be the best in town.
“If he’s pulling up and hitting threes,” Dean said, “we’re in trouble.”