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Don Ketchum
Former Staff Writer,

Youngker boys rely on big hoops rally in second half

December 27, 2011 by Don Ketchum, AZPreps365

By Don Ketchum

Sometimes you have to take a step back before you can move forward.

Steve Burke has seen it so many times as a basketball coach over the years, first as the long-time girls’ coach at Phoenix Thunderbird and now the boys’ coach at Buckeye Youngker.

His team was reeling in the first quarter of its game against Glendale Independence in Tuesday’s (Dec. 27) first round of the Judy Dixon Holiday Tournament at Phoenix Greenway High. Some tournament games also are being played at Phoenix Northwest Christian.

Youngker trailed by 12 points late in the first period before cutting the margin to seven entering the second. The second quarter was better, and the second half was much better than that.

The Roughriders turned up the defensive pressure in the third quarter, outscoring their opponent 22-7 and went on to earn a 61-45 victory.

Youngker (11-2) moves on to play Phoenix Washington in the winner’s bracket on Wednesday (Dec. 28) at Greenway, with a 6 p.m. tipoff. Independence (6-6) also plays at 6, against Buckeye at Northwest Christian.

“I can’t believe we started like we did,’’ Burke said. “I guess sometimes you have to learn your lessons the hard way.’’

“At halftime, we told the kids to “be yourself. You don’t need to be nervous. This game is nothing special. It is like any other game.’’

London Burrell brought a lot of energy in the second half on defense and on the boards. The Roughriders tightened up their defense and forced numerous turnovers or low-percentage shots.

“We have been resilient all year,’’ Burke said. “We have trailed in a lot of games. I would prefer to not have it be that way. This team can get so much better. We have shown flashes of it, but we need to be more consistent.’’

Youngker’s passing was much improved in the second half.  A big factor was the play of point guard Jordan Schulze. The 6-foot-5 senior can see the floor well, and he was able to overcome foul trouble in the first half.

“You don’t see many 6-5 point guards (in high school),’’ Burke said. “He was our quarterback in football, so he is a good leader.’’

Tim Harris had 12 of his 15 points in the second half and connected for three 3-pointers in the game. Zak Howard also had three 3-pointers and finished with 13 points.

Shai Harris was the only double-figure scorer for Independence. He had 10 points, all in the first half.