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September 16, 2014

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high school basketball:

Canyon Springs, standout guard develop ahead of schedule to win Sunrise title

Former UNLV star Freddie Banks’ team is looking for its second state championship in three seasons

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Christopher DeVargas

Canyon Springs HS Boys Basketball team celebrates after beating Valley HS 81 to 74 and taking the Sunrise Championship for Division 1, Friday Feb. 15, 2013.

Sunrise Boys Division 1 Championship

Chris Nelson of Canyon Springs attempts to run the ball past Ryan John of Valley HS score their championship game, Friday Feb. 15, 2013. Canyon Springs beat Valley 81 to 74 taking the Sunrise Championship for Division 1. Launch slideshow »
Prep Sports Now

The playoff pod

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer fill out their brackets for the Sunset and Sunrise regional tournaments.

Jordan Davis always believed he would be leading his basketball team onto the floor at the high school state tournament.

But not even Davis, a sophomore guard at Canyon Springs High, could imagine it happening at this stage of his career.

Davis, after all, wasn’t promoted to the varsity team until two weeks ago. However, he’s been one of the Pioneers’ best players down the stretch, scoring a game-high 27 points Friday in a 81-74 victory against Valley in the Sunrise Regional championship game at Green Valley to earn a berth in next week’s state tournament.

Canyon Springs, the 2011 state champions, is back in the four-team event with an unlikely cast of characters — especially Davis.

When the Pioneers won the crown two years ago, all but two of its players were seniors, and anything less than the championship from the veteran group would have been a disappointment.

This year’s Canyon Springs team was considered one year away from competing for a title. Led by Davis’ brother, junior forward Gerard Davis, and junior guard Shaquille Carr, the plan was to develop the solid 2014 graduating class into a contender for their senior year.

The plan, however, got altered in late January. Carr was lost for the year, giving Jordan Davis a chance to step into the playing rotation.

While he’s often reckless with the ball, he’s quickly become one of their best players. And, come next Thursday, he’ll be the one with the ball in his hands down the stretch in the state tournament at the Orleans Arena.

“Yes, I always thought I’d play (in the state tournament), but not now, not this year,” Davis said. “I honestly thought I would get moved up and not see the floor. I’m just really appreciative of the coaches for this chance.”

Canyon Springs has won seven of its last eight games in peaking at the right time of the season. In Thursday’s semifinal win against Las Vegas, and Friday’s championship game against Valley, Canyon Springs erased nine-point deficits.

Canyon Springs trailed 57-46 with three minutes to play in the third quarter against Valley and appeared to be losing control of the game. But the Pioneers closed the quarter on a 13-2 run to even the score at 59-all heading into the final eight minutes.

Canyon Springs coach Freddie Banks, the UNLV legend from their 1987 Final Four team, never wavered in the message he delivered during timeouts. The Pioneers entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed from the Northeast League, but didn’t play like an underdog team. They won games against higher-seeded teams three times in four nights, overcoming deficits in each contest to advance.

Now, they are two wins away from a second state title in three years, taking the words of encouragement from Banks and turning them into a reality.

“I keep telling the kids, ‘Something special is going to happen, something special is going to happen,’” Banks said. “Believe in me and I will believe in you.”

In the rally to close the third quarter, Jordan Davis scored five of Canyon Springs’ 13 points, including a 3-point play. All night, he aggressively took the ball to the basket in creating most of his scoring chances, catching fire for nine straight points to open the second quarter.

“I just let the game come to me and my teammates got me the ball when I was hot,” he said.

Canyon Springs went on a 6-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to take a 69-64 lead and never trail again. In the final five minutes, they connected on 14-of-16 fouls shots with junior Brandon Edmond making 5-of-6 attempts.

Edmond, who finished with 13 points, is another from the class of 2014 expected to help the Pioneers reach next year’s event. On this night, however, the group of mostly juniors decided to crash the tournament one year earlier.

“We just keep believing. Our coach told us something special is going to happen. I guess this is our special moment,” Edmond said. “(Going to state) sounds great. It’s like a dream come true.”

Post player Tim Straghter, one of the two seniors, deserves most of the credit for the win. He was consistent from start to finish in scoring 19 points, and was fearless in fighting for rebounds on the inside.

“I told Tim to keep fighting and he gave us everything he had,” Banks said. As players and fans joyously celebrated at midcourt following the game, the Davis brothers and Carr huddled near the Canyon Springs bench congratulating each other. Jordan Davis, who considers Carr a mentor, had tears in his eyes. The three grew up together in North Las Vegas playing sports, dreaming of taking their brand of basketball to the state’s biggest stage.

It was bittersweet accomplishing the goal with Carr, a top recruit nationally for the class of 2014 who has a scholarship offer from UNLV, along for the ride as only a cheerleader. After all, the state tournament’s Cinderella team could use a little help.

“I don’t consider us being the underdog,” Banks said. “I consider us being one of the teams on the floor trying to get the win. My thing is, if my kids come out and play hard every night, my kids are going to continue to get the win.”

Valley’s season is still alive. They play Sunset Region runner-up Centennial at 6 p.m. Monday for the last spot in the state tournament. The Vikings, which battled foul trouble all night, were led by Daniel Young and Spencer Mathis, who each scored 19 points.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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