KINGMAN – From start to finish, Tuesday night was all about the seven Kingman Academy High School boys basketball seniors. The pre-game ceremonies set the tone and the Tigers carried that over to the court in a 67-58 victory over Chino Valley at Betty Rowe Gymnasium.
“Realistically as far as regular season this is the last time the seniors are going to play in front of their home crowd,” said Academy head coach William McDavid. “Luckily we’ll have a lot of fans who will travel to Kingman High (Thursday), but this is the last time we may play on this floor. The seniors have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears on this floor and they've earned every minute of playing time, every point, every bucket and every W they’ve ever gotten here.”
That fact made it even more special that all seven seniors saw action Tuesday with six accounting for every point in the game.
Tyler Chinyere led the way with a game-high 30 points, while Aden Dunton scored 13 and Nate Perea added eight points. Stevie Wusstig finished with six points, followed by Trey Skubal and Bridger Bodily with five points each. And last, but not least, was Grant Stryker who played in the first and third quarters.
Following the game, McDavid made sure to let the seniors know how much they’ve meant to the program.
“Coach told us he’s going to miss us because we’re a senior team,” Dunton said. “He was telling us to keep striving, keep going for state and that’s what we’re here for – win a state championship.”
And Dunton played an important role in making sure the Tigers kept that goal in reach.
Academy held a 50-29 advantage late in the third quarter, but saw that lead shrink to 60-56 with less than three minutes remaining.
That was as close as the 25th-ranked Cougars (8-9, 2-7 3A West Region) would get though, as Dunton nailed a clutch 3-pointer that proved to be the nail in the coffin.
“Aden played with extra heart tonight because this is his senior night,” McDavid said. “These are all his brothers he’s been playing sports with since he was little. We all recognize he’s a wonderful shooter. We have Tyler (Chinyere), Nate (Perea) and Trey (Skubal) who can score for us, but Aden (Dunton) is a really special young man.”
The Tigers also witnessed that Chino Valley’s Daniel Martinez is one extraordinary player. The junior scored 19 of his 24 points in the second half and that played a big role in the Cougars’ comeback.
“We really put our foot on the pedal in the second and third quarter and we pushed those guys to a brink,” McDavid said. “The issue was they have a wonderful shooter (in Martinez) and if he gets hot, he’s not going to miss. He did a wonderful job tonight and we recognize that. In the last two or three minutes, we made life a little more difficult for him and that’s what helped us win this game.”
No. 15 ranked Academy (10-5, 6-3 3A West Region) concludes the regular season at 7 p.m. Thursday with a short trip to face 34th-ranked Kingman High (3-13, 0-9).
“Coach (Nick) Juby has that team playing extremely hard,” McDavid said of the Bulldogs. “I know they’ve had some bad luck with some of their losses, but we know they’re primed to come out and work hard. We just have to be ready for it and I know we will be.”
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