The brackets might have been set up and there were certainly others willing to change the course, but it was pretty clear
Corona del Sol (Tempe)
was going to face Pinnacle (Phoenix)
in last year's Division I state boys basketball title game.
They weren't going let it go down any other way.
Corona's Casey Benson and Pinnacle's Dorian Pickens willed their teams into the championship. They were going to do whatever it took - especially take the clutch shots – to make sure they went out with a championship on the line.
With the tandem now getting minutes in the Pac-12 with Benson at Oregon and Pickens at Stanford, there is an opening. And there are plenty of guys willing to take that shot.
The Super Sectional portion of the Arizona postseason begins Feb. 11 across the state before the state tournament gets underway mid-February. Any team that gets through both tournaments is going to need someone willing to rock and shoot at all times.
"You have to have a guy who is not afraid and confident to take that shot," Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane Jr. said. "Someone who doesn't care about the situation."
The Aztecs, who are in line to win their fourth-straight D-I title, appear to have three guys who fit the mold in senior Dane Kuiper
, sophomore Alex Barcello
and freshman Marvin Bagley III
Barcello scored 31 in the 71-57 win over Desert Vista this week and clearly has no problem stepping into Benson's role if called upon.
"I definitely enjoy playing point guard and controlling the team," said Barcello, who came off the bench as a freshman. "I know that I had to step up and be a leader. Last year's team was really talented and so is this one, but I have a bigger role and if the ball is in my hands at the end I have a lot of options to help our team win."
The state has plenty of others willing to do just the same in players with Markus Howard
of Perry (Gilbert)
, Daniel Corona
, Kenzo Nudo
of Chaparral (Scottsdale)
, Jeffrey Rhymes
of Shadow Mountain (Phoenix)
and Brandon Clarke
of Desert Vista (Phoenix)
There will be games when those types of players have to come through like the 2013 postseason when No. 1 Corona had to go to three overtimes to beat No. 16 Mountain Pointe in the second round.
"We lost that game three times, but Casey wouldn't let it happen," Duane said. "It just shows you that every game is a potential loss until you win it no matter what anyone's (seed) is going into it."
Desert Vista, which was within five of Corona in the fourth quarter on Tuesday before the Aztecs blew open the game, feels like that should be the case if the teams cross paths again.
"(The Thunder players) know with a different situation or scenario it can be different," Thunder coach Tony Darden said after the loss at Corona. "(Corona) is a great team but I think we are just as good. Hopefully, if we will play them again it will be us against them."
And then it, and so many other games during the postseason, just might come down to someone willing to rise up and let it go.
"It comes natural," Duane said. "There are competitive kids and different roles. When you have someone calling for the ball in those situations, then you have a chance to pull some of those games out."Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Prep Sports Director for 1013 Communications, is a 20-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.