GLENDALE– Turning the corner.
It’s something coaches look for when trying to get their program to the next level.
At some point during Dave Williams’ tenure at Desert Vista, he just might be able to look at his second season and realize that’s when it happened.
The Thunder came up short in Thursday’s Division I state semifinals but not before pushing top-seeded Corona del Sol to its limit in a 49-46 loss.
“We had them,” Williams said. “It was there but it just didn’t go our way. I am proud of the way the guys handled themselves and they way they played but we are going to be back. People are going to have to deal with us next year.”
The Thunder (22-9) made a late push to nearly knock off the Aztecs (31-1) as Desert Vista outscored Corona 27-21 in the second half.
“We probably played 30 percent of the game the way we wanted to and 70 percent their style,” Williams said. “We lost some of the discipline that we have worked so hard for, but didn’t carry it into this game.”
After trailing 28-19 at the half, the Thunder never took the lead but closed within three in the third quarter when Danny Powell (15 points, 10 rebounds) hit a jumper to make it 34-31.
Corona, which will play No. 6 Cesar Chavez for the title on Saturday, pushed it back out to 43-35 in the fourth, but the Thunder made it interesting as senior Jeff Lowery got more involved down the stretch, scoring five of his seven points in the fourth, as he hit a jumper and made a free throw to get it down to 45-42.
It got real interesting when Powell hit the Thunder’s first 3-pointer, they had been 0 for 9, to close within 47-45 with 1:08 left.
After a Corona turnover, Desert Vista had a chance to tie it but the play called for Powell netted a miss shot on a reverse layup and after Kyle Pitman’s tip-in came up short, Corona’s Calaen Robinson (21 points) snagged the rebound.
The Thunder had one more chance when Robinson made only one free throw, but Powell never got a clear look on his 3-point attempt.
“We had our chances but the first half killed us,” Lowery said. “We thought we could beat them and we were right there...”
The senior group – led by Steve Klein, KJ Hoffman, Powell and Lowery – will be sorely missed but the development of players like John Marshall, Greg Carter, Connor MacDougall and Pitman have Williams excited.
“I’m sad we didn’t win this for the seniors, but I want the players coming back to remember exactly how they feel after this one,” Williams said. “This is definitely a season we can look back on as a turning point.”
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