Deer Valley’s magical season ends

By Luke Johnson

Deer Valley High School played in its first Northern California Division I boys basketball regional championship on Saturday, March 16, but ended up falling to the Pleasant Grove Eagles, 73-60, at the Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento.

After the loss, Deer Valley’s UNLV-bound point guard Kendall Smith was brought to tears when he realized his high school career with his long-time friend and teammate, Kentucky-bound power forward Marcus Lee, was over.

“This has been my family, my cousin. I did everything with him. He’s been my point guard since day one,” said Lee. “Knowing this is probably my last game with him… it hurts. We’ve been through a lot and conquered a lot.”

Throughout the postseason, Smith averaged nearly 22 points and six assists per game, while Lee put up nearly 18 points, 19 rebounds and 9 blocks per game.

“One thing you can take to the bank is that you’re going to hear from both of these guys again. I promise you,” said Deer Valley Head Coach Lachet Phillips.

In the previous game, Smith suffered an ankle sprain against Bellarmine. In that game, Smith drove past three defenders to make a clutch layup that put the Wolverines up by two with only 10 seconds left in regulation. Then on the next possession he stole the ball in transition to secure a trip to Sacramento.

Smith said he felt about 65 percent healthy in the championship game, as he was unable to display his explosiveness. Clearly hobbling up and down the court, Smith still played all but about two and a half minutes of the game.

Pleasant Grove put constant pressure on the 6-foot-10 Lee by double-teaming him every time he touched the ball. The Eagle’s defensive strategy limited Lee to only 10 points in the contest.

“I saw a man in front of me and a man behind me,” said Lee. “They did a good job on us.”

The Eagles’ resiliency from the free throw line was one of the key components to their victory. Pleasant Grove was successful on 27-of-28 attempts.

“We really stress free throws in practice and shoot a lot of free throws over and over,” said Eagles Head Coach John DePonte. “Once we got on a roll, I think everyone just fed off the success.”

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