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Higley gets by Tempe on senior night

The Higley boys basketball team (13-9) honored its departing seniors before Tuesday’s 4A Desert Sky conference matchup against Tempe (12-10), but it was the Knights’ sophomore stars that shined brightest in their 76-67 win over the Buffaloes.

Sophomore forwards Shon Robinson and Jason Harris finished with 26 and 20 points respectively, and sophomore guard Jordan Flowers added 11 points for Higley.

“(Our sophomores) are growing. They are getting a lot of good experience,” said Higley head coach Jerome Joseph. “With that comes maturity, with that comes mistakes of course, but they’re growing and getting better as the season progresses.”

Harris, forced to sit out for the first half of the Knights’ season because of the Arizona Interscholastic Association in-state transfer rule, credited Robinson in drawing the defense off himself, and vice versa, making the game easier on the offensive side of the floor.

“I think we just take a lot of pressure off each other,” Harris said. “When he has the ball it creates opportunities for me to score because the defense is so attracted to him. Same thing when I have the ball. I think we work good together and he’s fun to play with.”

Higley started the game in zone defense, using an athletic trapping attack to force bad decisions from the Tempe guards.

“We try and use our length to our advantage, try to force teams to shoot outside from the perimeter, and then obviously we try and limit them to one shot when we rebound the ball,” Joseph said.

The 6-foot-10 Robinson played a big role in Higley’s defensive strategy, setting the tone by blocking a couple early Tempe layups into the stands. He said tough practices with his team improved his defense.

“I’ve been working in practice,” Robinson said. “I’ve been going at my own teammates and they’ve been going at me, making me a better defender.”

But Tempe did not go down without a fight. Battling back from a 37-23 deficit at half, the Buffaloes brought it to within two points late in the fourth quarter, off back-to-back 3-pointers from senior guard Naseem Vigil.

Vigil scored 38 points in the two teams’ last contest this season, leading the Buffaloes to a 70-51 victory at Tempe High School. But he was held to just 18 points this time around, scoring 13 in the fourth quarter.

As Tempe mounted their comeback, the 6-foot-8 Harris was sidelined after being poked in the eye on a layup attempt, and sat the last minutes of the game.

“He just poked me in my eye, it wasn’t dirty or anything,” Harris said. “It’s just part of playing basketball.”

Both teams entered the game with nine losses, vying for a second-place spot in the conference and a decent playoff seeding.

“We knew how important this game was for us,” Joseph said. “I basically told (the team) if we want to have a decent seeding, as far as our extended season and playoff run, we have to win this game.”

Higley will travel to Marcos de Niza on Thursday, Feb. 1 to finish out its season, while Tempe will face Casa Grande at home the same day.

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