The Cholla boys basketball team was able to handle the bright lights of McKale Center.
In a game that was closer than the final score indicated, the Chargers defeated Amphitheater 50-37 on Monday in the annual MLK Classic.
Despite sloppy offensive play early on, Cholla led from start to finish and controlled tempo throughout in the team’s 11th victory of the season.
Leading the way for the Chargers was the perimeter duo of junior guard Marcel Dean and freshman guard Myles Gant, who each scored 10 points.
Dean and Gant also set the tone defensively by shadowing the Amphi guards in a full-court press early and often during the victory.
Cholla coach Masai Dean said he was pleased with his team’s defensive performance.
“Offense was a little shaky but (we were) gritty on defense,” Masai Dean said.
“I thought we moved the ball well and at the end of the day we got it done.”
Amphi came out of the gates energized and ready to play but struggled to adapt to the Chargers’ defensive combination of a full court press dropped back into a 2-3 zone defense.
The Panthers early attempts to pass around the defense for an open shot ended in turnovers rather than made buckets. By the end of the first quarter, Cholla had pulled ahead 16-6 behind the strength of its defensive gameplan.
Panther guard Jackson Ruai led the team with 13 points and spearheaded Amphi’s second-half charge to cut the Cholla lead down to six with 6:39 left to play.
However, that was as close as the Panthers would get, as Cholla ended the game on a 15-8 run to secure the victory.
After the game, Masai Dean echoed his appreciation for another chance to participate in the MLK Classic.
“This is our third time around, the first time for some of these guys, and I think it’s a big deal,” he said about playing in the MLK Classic. “Anytime we can come down here and show these guys from our side of town what the U of A looks like and is about… it’s a big deal.”