By Greg Perkins–
It took 17 games for the defending 3A state champs to lose their first basketball game this year. The 21-game winning streak of the Roadrunners of Holbrook dating back to last season came to a close in the finals of the White Mountain Holiday Classic at Blue Ridge last Friday.
Holbrook opened pool play two days earlier, easily beating up on Round Valley to win the game 60-39. Jalen Jackson poured in 12 of his game high 16 points in the first quarter, giving the Birds a big cushion early. In the second period Torrian Epps, Holbrook’s other primary offensive weapon, dropped in all of his 11 points, giving the Roadrunners a 20-point halftime cushion. Holbrook kept the Elks at arm’s length throughout the second half to garner the easy win. Rashaun Baldwin added 9 and Bryson Keoni chipped in 6 for Holbrook.
In their second pool play game, Holbrook dismantled Benson, 68-25. Epps and Jackson combined for 14 of the team’s first quarter points, helping Holbrook build a 23-9 edge. In the second, Holbrook’s defense held Benson without a field goal while giving up just five free throws and led 39-14 at the half. Holbrook cruised in the second half, with bench players doing most of the work. Kyle Chee scored six of Holbrook’s eight fourth quarter points. Epps and Jackson scored 14 each to lead the team. Baldwin added 10 and Jesse Spangler counted for 7.
Placing first in their pool, the Roadrunners moved into bracket play where they met up with Wickenburg and took down the Wranglers 67-43. Epps sparked Holbrook’s fast start, scoring 12 of his game high 16 points in the first eight minutes. Holbrook led by 10 at the half, but a trio of treys from Dakota Lester in the second half helped the Birds move on in the bracket with their third win by more than 20 points in the tournament. Jackson scored 15, Lester added 11 and Keoni had 10.
In the quarterfinal round Holbrook again met little resistance, this time taking care of Canyon State Academy, 71-46. Jackson had a quick start, netting 15 of his 23-point total in the first period. Running mate Epps added 10 in the opening frame as Holbrook busted out to a 27-13 start. Lester nailed three long bombs in the second, then added another in the third. In the fourth period Ryan Baldonado scored six points. Epps led the team with 24 points. Jackson added 23, and Lester hit for 12.
In the semi-final round, Holbrook met up with the hosting Yellowjackets. Blue Ridge is known for a tough defense, and quickly put the clamps on both Epps and Jackson, holding the duo to just five points in the first. As good as the Jackets’ defense was, their offense couldn’t crack the Roadrunner defense, scoring just four points to trail 12-4 heading to the second. Holbrook managed just one field goal in the second period, but still went to the half tied at 18-18. The third period was a defensive struggle with Holbrook edging the Jackets by just one point. In the fourth Epps and Baldwin combined to make all six of their free throw attempts, helping Holbrook advance to the title game with a hard fought 38-33 win. Jackson led the team in scoring with 10 points. Baldwin added 8 and Epps was held to just 5. Baldonado added six. Holbrook won the game at the free throw line, making 16 of 19 attempts.
In the championship game, Jackson paced the Birds to a five-point first period lead, scoring 11 of his team high 19 points. Epps was the only other Roadrunner to score in the quarter, adding four. In the second only Lester and Keoni found the mark, but Holbrook still held a 20-17 halftime lead.
Jackson scored six points in the third. but Westwood inched closer, trailing by just two heading into the final eight minutes of play. In the fourth Epps and Jackson scored just one field goal each, and Baldwin hit both of his free throw attempts, but a six-point quarter wasn’t enough for Holbrook to keep its unbeaten streak alive. Westwood went on to win the game 41-36.
Holbrook’s record is now 16-1 on the season, but more importantly, the Roadrunners are still unbeaten in power point contests with a 5-0 mark. The Birds returned to regular season play on Thursday when Blue Ridge was slated to make a visit, then Winslow will come in on Saturday, Jan. 7, for what is expected to be a full capacity game at Muñoz Gym.