PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – Dunks. Free throws. Fouls.
There were common themes at the Prescott Valley Event Center Saturday night in a matchup between the Northern Arizona Suns and Santa Cruz Warriors. The Suns only had eight available players, two of which were added yesterday, but they were able to string together a rally to come back from a 17-point deficit to defeat Santa Cruz 122-113.
With two Two-Way players in Phoenix, and two others sidelined by injuries, the Suns (15-18) needed big-time minutes from their core. Four Suns played 40+ minutes, and a fifth played 37. With all of this coming on the second game of a back-to-back set, you could say this was an impressive win against the Warriors (18-16).
Northern Arizona Suns Head Coach Cody Toppert did.
“Their tanks were empty and they just found that little extra when we needed it,” Toppert said. “I couldn’t be prouder of this win. Unbelievable, amazing win. One of the most amazing wins – I don’t know if I’ve ever been a part of this.”
Northern Arizona was led by Archie Goodwin, who tallied 31 points on 8-of-14 shooting, plus 14-of-18 from the free throw line, nine rebounds and five assists. This was Goodwin’s highest scoring total as a Sun, and it ties his season-high while with Greensboro vs. Lakeland on Dec. 23. Goodwin was one of four Suns to score 20+ points.
Xavier Silas scored 27 points with four three-pointers and a 9-of-10 clip from the free throw line. He scored 60 points combined over these last two days. Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson had a new career-high 23 points on 7-of-13 shooting, to go with six rebounds, five steals and two blocks. He bested his 20-point night he had against Iowa on Nov. 11. Last night’s star kept it going, as Mike Young achieved a double-double with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting and 13 rebounds. He leads the team in double-doubles, now with seven on the year.
Shaquille Harrison also had a solid game, notching 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting, eight assists, four rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
Northern Arizona started good defensively, allowing just 20 points in the first quarter and zero made three-pointers through the first half. The score was knotted at 50 at the half before Santa Cruz came roaring out of the locker room. The Warriors started on a 7-0 run, which quickly grew to a 32-15 run to give them a 17-point lead. A 10-0 run for Northern Arizona kept the Suns around entering the fourth frame.
The Suns would go on to dominate the fourth quarter, shooting 12-of-18 (.667) from the field, 14-of-17 from the free throw line, outscoring Santa Cruz 40-25.
“We get down by 17 points and now all of a sudden we’re in a hole. At that particular point, our guys had an opportunity to just mail it in. Say, ‘Hey, we came, we tried, we gave a good effort, we don’t have that many guys.’ We say we have eight but honestly (Steven Green) and (Zach Andrews) barely even know the plays. So realistically we’re playing out here with six guys at altitude, second length of a back-to-back, big minutes on the front end and our guys just – the word that I had, to be honest with you, on my game card was ‘grit.’ Our guys came out and just showed an incredible amount of grit tonight, and resilience and perseverance,” Toppert said.
The Suns would need grit to get through foul trouble all night. There were a combined 61 personal fouls and four technical fouls called, giving way to 95 combined free throws.
Quinn Cook, freshly back from the Golden State Warriors, and Terrence Jones led their team with 28 points apiece. Cook made five three-pointers to go along with seven rebounds, six assists and four steals. Jones shot 9-of-14 from the field, plus 10-of-18 from the free throw line, to go with seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Damion Lee led the Warriors’ bench with 19 points, thanks to a 10-of-11 clip from the free throw line.
The Suns remain home but get a much-needed two days off. NAZ will host the Rio Grande Valley Vipers on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. MT at the Prescott Valley Event Center. Santa Cruz plays at the Salt Lake City Stars on Tuesday at 7 p.m. MT.