GLENDALE, Ariz. - Corona del Sol (Tempe, Ariz.)
coach Sam Duane Jr. had a strong hunch his team was going to play pretty well Saturday night for the state Division I championship.
There was a looseness about this talented bunch he hadn't noticed before. A true sense of confidence. And when he told them before the game against Chavez (Laveen, Ariz.)
to let it all hang out, to soak in the big stage and hot lights at Jobing.com Arena, the Aztecs obliged.
The football studs (we're talking possible Sunday-playing studs) -
(18 points, 21 rebounds) and Andrus Peat
(10 rebounds) - dominated the paint. Arizona State-bound wing Calaen Robinson
(14 points, six assists) was a step ahead everyone. And sophomore guard Casey Benson
just flat out filled up the bucket, making 8 of 14 shots including three 3-pointers en route to a team-high 22 points.
Add it all up and the Aztecs (32-1) indeed soaked it all in, let it all out and perhaps saved their best game - and 30th straight win - for last, a 66-53 contest they were in control of from start to finish.
"That," Peat said, "felt great. What a perfect way to end my basketball career. With all my friends. Having fun. And winning a championship. Awesome."
Peat, who is the No. 8 football recruit in the country according to MaxPreps recruiting expert Tom Lemming, had the touch of a 6-foot-6, 310-pound gridiron star, making 1 of 8 shots. He'll definitely not be attempting double duties at Stanford.
But Moss, on the other hand, looked like a legitimate Division I power forward, as he dominated every facet. He used his powerful but agile 6-5, 250-pound frame to gain position where ever he wanted and he showed a decent touch to go along with superb rebounding.
"He got almost every rebounds, including every big one," Duane said. "He was outstanding."
Said Moss: "It's going to be hard to give up my first love."
Benson won't be thinking about that anytime soon, as the 6-2 shooting guard appeared to be the most fluid and in control offensive threat on the court. He made 8 of 14 shots and half of his six 3-point attempts and all three of his free throws.
"It's hard to remember sometime that he's just a sophomore," Duane said.
The combination of it all was more than enough to deal with upstart Chavez, which got a game-high 27 points from JD Reagan, who made 9 of 22 shots, including 6-for-13 on 3s. Other than LJ Harmon's eight points, no one for Chavez had more than four.
The sixth-seeded Champions were outrebounded 48-32 and didn't help themselves by making just 6 of 19 free throws.
"Against a team as talented and well coached as that you have to be just about perfect at the things you can control, like free throws," Chavez coach Gary Lee said. "We showed well to get here, but we really never threatened in this one. I'm still very proud of my guys."
It was the first title for Duane and first for the Aztecs since 1994, when Duane's dad Sam Duane Sr. was the coach.
Pops, with more than 650 wins and four state titles, is something of a coaching legend in these parts, but that hasn't bothered Duane Jr. He's not bothered by comparisons or filling big shoes or any of those potentially stifling worries.
In fact, Duane Sr. still helps with the Aztecs from time to time.
Good-natured about the father-son debate, Duane Jr. got a little misty moments after this one. "He's been so supportive of me," he said. And then, son couldn't say any more while he tried to compose himself.
He eventually got to other topics, like what an amazing journey and accomplishment it is to win 30 straight games.
"That's not about me or my dad it's about those guys," he said, pointing at the team doing a television interview. "Those guys were on a mission. It's hard to win 30 in a row. But everyone gave it their best shot and look what happen."Corona del Sol 66, Cesar Chavez 53CESAR CHAVEZ (27-6)
Pablo Rivas 2-7 0-0 4, LJ Harmon 3-5 2-2 8, Michael Scroggins 0-1 0-2 0, Will Hotl 2-3 0-0 4, JD Reagan 9-22 3-7 27, Tyler Bell 1-5 1-4 3, Shaun Patterson 1-3 0-0 3, Tae'Shawn Lee 1-2 0-2 2, Jesse Salzar 0-0 0-2 0, Daniel Hernandez 1-1 0-0 2, Jamarius Claiborne 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-50 6-19 53. CORONA DEL SOL (32-1)
Avery Moss 6-15 6-8 18, Andrus Peat 1-8 0-1 2, Casey Benson 8-14 3-3 22, Bryan Siefker 2-4 0-0 4, K'Lynn Robinson 5-19 3-9 14, Braden Tennyson 1-1 0-0 2, Elijah Hempstead 1-1 0-0 2, Cassius Peat 1-1 0-1 2. Totals 25-63 12-22 66.
Chavez 11 9 13 20 - 53
CDS 16 18 18 14 - 663-point goals:
Chavez 7-19 (Reagan 6, Patterson), CDS 4-11 (Benson 3, Robinson). Rebounds:
Chavez 32 (Harmon 9), CDS: 48 (Moss 21). Assists:
Chavez 9, CDS 12 (Robinson 6). Fouled out:
Harmon. DIVISION II: PEORIA 50, AMPHITHEATER 48
laid flat upon the Jobing.com Arena court face down and wept.
The Peoria (Peoria, Ariz.)
senior and USC-bound point guard had just scored a game-high 22 points and dished off for the game-winning assist with 3.0 seconds left, lifting his team to a thrilling 50-48 comeback win over defending champion Amphitheater (Tucson, Ariz.)
in the Arizona State Division II title game Saturday afternoon.
After USF-bound Tim Derksen had tied the game at 48-48 on a beautiful driving hoop with 12 seconds remaining, all in the cool and spacious home of the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team though Russel, a slight 5-foot-8, 160-pound lightning rod was going to take it all the way to the hoop.
Under full-court pressure, Russell dribbled methodically by one defender then jetted past a second and with time winding down he went up for what looked to be a potential game-winning floater.
But when three defenders collapsed, Russell dished to a wide open Sam Engler
, a reserve defensive specialist, who laid in an uncontested layup to go up 50-48.
Amphitheater quickly got the ball up court but didn't get a shot off, setting off a wild celebration for Peoria (27-3), the fourth seed. Russell, who overcame a nightmarish shooting night - 8-for-27 - eventually dropped to the floor and cried. His emotion and drive helped the Panthers fight back from a 26-12 halftime deficit.
"Just seems like I finally caught a break," Russell said. "I just want to thank God. That's all I can say."
Russell later revealed a tough childhood had led him to Arizona from Philadelphia, that he was estranged from his mother and father and lived with his uncle. He didn't learn to play basketball, he said, until he was 12-year-old.
His rough going only mirrored a very rough recent spell at his high school, Russell said. The school's principal was involved in a car accident last week and is still hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries. Peoria's popular football coach is being investigated by police for alleged misuse of fundraising funds. And earlier this season, the basketball team had to forfeit a game for its involvement in a bench-clearing brawl.
And, just moments before Peoria took the court, its girls basketball team lost in the state finals to Seton Catholic.
Add it all up and the emotion was real and raw.
"Our school is like a family and we've been through so much as a family, as a school and today we caught a break," Russell said. "This wasn't just for us, but for our girls too. We're together in everything we do."
The main person he was together with in the final sequence was Engler, an unlikely 6-1 senior guard who didn't even play basketball last year. He was in the game for defensive purposes, Peoria coach Michael Serwa said, and just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
It led Peoria to its first state title since 1984.
"I was thinking about getting into a rhythm shot as I drove down," Russell said. "I rose up to shoot but at the last second I heard Sam yelling 'ball, ball, ball.' He was so wide open. I'm just so happy that he kept cutting. I knew he was going to make it. He's a tough kid."
Said Engler: "It was just a beautiful dish. I knew there was less than five seconds left and I needed to make it so we could win. Thank God I did. I'm so happy. ... Honestly, I didn't think it was coming to me, but I cut in and it was just a beautiful dish. ... I've never made a winning shot before. I guess I picked the right time to make one."
Peoria coach Serwa, in just his second season, said the sequence was a perfect ending to the season and to an up-and-down, tough, defensive struggle.
"Our idea was to just get the ball to Dewayne and let him make a play," Serwa said. "That's what he's done for four years. Considering the maturity he has, he's a Player of the Year candidate, he's a point guard going to USC and he's got the confidence to dish it to a kid coming off the bench.
"It was really a perfect play for us to end our year."
Though Russell and Engler finished it off, it was really the play of Lawrence Pierce, a 6-5 senior, who keyed the Peoria's comeback. He scored 15 points, had three steals and one huge block on Amphitheater's 6-6 Charles Benson, who led his team with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Pierce scored eight in the fourth quarter and made four straight free throws in the last 1:37.
"(Pierce) is big time," Russell said. "I'm surprised you guys aren't talking to him instead of me."
Amphiteater (30-4) looked in complete control following a 17-4 run in the second quarter. It was also had big games from Derksen (13 points, eight assists) and Tony Lillard (12 points). Peoria 50, Amphitheater 48PEORIA (27-3)
Rovelle Dagustino 0-2 0-0 0, Goch Ajak 2-11 2-2 6, Stephen Hadley 1-3 0-0 2, Dewayne Russell 8-27 6-8 22, Lawrence Pierce 5-9 4-4 15, Chris Chapman 0-0 1-2 1, Sam Engler 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 18-54 13-16 50AMPHITHEATER (30-4)
Charles Benson 6-9 4-6 16, Tony Lillard 5-12 1-2 12, Jose Mada 0-3 0-0 0, Ryan Farhat 1-6 1-1 3, Tim Derksen 5-10 3-3 13, Gerardo 0-1 2-2 2, Yusuf Shehata 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 18-44 11-14 48.
Peoria 8 4 17 21 - 50
Amphitheater 9 17 9 13 - 48 3-point goals:
Peoria 1-12 (Pierce), Amphitheater 1-7 (Lillard). Rebounds:
Peoria 34 (Ajak 10), Amphitheater 30 (Benson 7, Derksen 7). Assists:
Peoria 4, Amphitheater 13 (Derksen 8). Fouled out:
DIVISION III: GILBERT CHRISTIAN 62, THATCHER 42
Rebounding was the operative word here as the second-seeded Knights (27-4) collected 20 offensive boards and outrebounded third-seed Tatcher 46-26 overall to claim its first Division III title. Gilbert Christian (Gilbert, Ariz.)
lost in last year's 1A finals, 68-58 to Orma, setting the tone for the 2011-12 season.
"Two days after that loss, we got ready for this season," said senior center Connor Patterson, who led all scorers with 20 points to go along with nine rebounds, seven on the offensive end. "The pain of that loss is what pushed us and why this feels so great right now."
Forwards Sam Jones (17 points, nine rebounds) and Roberto Reyes (nine points, 10 rebounds) also had big games offensively, but it was the defensive efforts of guards Logan Foughies and Dylan Bliss (11 points) that was key.
The Knights clamped down on Thatcher's talented backcourt, which led to just 30 percent shooting for the Eagles (14 of 47). Koby Alva led Thatcher (30-4) with 15 points and Mitchell Goodman added 10. But they were a combined 7 of 23 from the floor.
It was the third straight win for Gilbert Christian over Thatcher
"We weren't going to overlook them," Patterson said. "They are really good and really dangerous. But our defense was really the key. That and rebounded. I'm so proud of our guys." Gilbert Christian 62, Thatcher 42THATCHER (30-4)
Ethan Bryce 2-9 0-0 4, Nick Orr 1-2 1-2 3, Eric Angle 3-7 1-2 8, Mitchell Goodman 3-12 2-3 10, Koby Alva 4-11 3-3 15, Presley Motes 0-2 0-0 0, Spencer Ferrin 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 14-47 7-10 42. GILBERT CHRISTIAN (27-4)
Roberto Reyes 2-9 4-7 9, Sam Jones 5-15 6-6 17, Connor Patterson 9-14 2-3 20, Logan Foughies 0-4 3-4 3, Dylan Bliss 4-13 0-0 11, Jimmy White 0-0 1-2 1, Derek Phillips 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 20-55 17-24 62.
Thatcher 9 8 13 12 - 42
G. Christian 13 15 14 20 - 623-point goals:
Thatcher 7-22 (Alva 4, Goodman 2, Angle), Gilbert Christian 5-21 (Bliss 3, Reyes, Jones). Rebounds:
Gilbert Christian 46 (Reyes 10), Thatcher 26 (Bryce 6). Assists:
G. Christian 11 (Reyes 4), Thatcher 6 (Goodman 3). Fouled out:
Bryce, Goodman, Alva.