The Corona del Sol gym isn’t Calaen Robinson’s home any more.
As he sat in the stands last week, he watched boys volleyball players set up a net at half court and spike balls down onto the hardwood. Later that day, a junior high girls basketball clinic would take over the space.
But no matter how many practices, clinics and games come through the gym, the school won’t soon forget Robinson’s senior season.
The 6-foot-3, 175-pound shooting guard led the Aztecs to a 32-1 record and the Division I state championship, Corona del Sol finished the year on a 30-game winning streak, dispatching any and all comers with regularity.
Robinson’s numbers — 18.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.4 steals — weren’t obscene, but he struck the perfect balance between taking over games when needed and relying on his talented supporting cast.
For his efforts, the Arizona State-bound Robinson has been named the Tribune’s Player of the Year.
“He was our leader,” Corona del Sol coach Sammy Duane said. “As he went, we went.”
The Aztecs dropped their third game of the season to Mesquite and didn’t lose again. Robinson said the team would sometimes have arguments in practice, but come game-time, everyone found a way to work together.
And the payoff was a feeling he won’t soon forget.
“We’ve been wanting this since eighth grade,” Robinson said. “To get this our senior year — how does that saying go? — we went out with a bang.”
With Casey Benson, Avery Moss and Andrus Peat beside him. Robinson had no problem sharing the spotlight.
But in late December, Robinson reminded spectators of his immense ability. Corona del Sol faced Utah power American Fork without Moss and Peat, who were both participating in football All-Star activities.
So Robinson took over, hitting 11-of-18 shots and 6-of-8 3-pointers to lead the Aztecs to a 77-56 win. He scored 30 points in the game.
“Even as a coach, sometimes he’ll do things, and you’re like, ‘Oooh,’” Duane said.
Robinson said it took him some time to develop trust in his teammates. As a junior, he always wanted to take the last shot. This season, he believed that everyone else could make it, too.
“It clicked over the summer,” Robinson said.
Even without Robinson, Corona del Sol would have been a very good team. Moss was a force in the low post and Benson is one of the best sophomores in Arizona.
But the Aztecs may not have been the best team.
“I don’t think they win state without him,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar said.
Memorable Moments from the 2011-12 Season
Corona stays afloat: The Corona del Sol boys basketball team didn’t have its full roster for nearly half the season. Avery Moss missed 10 games with a shoulder injury, then he and Andrus Peat missed time because of All-Star football games practices. Cassius Peat also dealt with a knee injury that sidelined him for a stretch. However, the Aztecs continued to win despite the setbacks and eventually had everyone available on their way to the Division I championship.
Larry Lewis’ scoring outburst: Arcadia’s shooting guard played like he didn’t want his season to end in the Division II state tournament. His play during the regular season helped the Titans clinch the top overall seed, but he ratcheted it up a notch in the postseason, Lewis scored 38 and 42 points in his first two playoff games to lead Arcadia to the semifinals. Lewis only had 19 points in a semifinal loss to eventual- champion Peoria, but he still ended the state tournament averaging 33 points per playoff contest.
Gilbert Christian returns to the top: The Knights found themselves un unfamiliar territory when Orme beat them in the 2011 1A championshop game. Gilbert Christian vowed to return to its regular spot as state champions and did so by defeating Thatcher in the Division III championship game. Connor Patterson struggled against The Orme School but scored 20 points and corraled nine rebounds against Thatcher to finish his career in style.
Perry defeats Basha: The Perry boys basketball team trailed No. 7 Basha by 16 points with 4:15 left in the fourth quarter of its second-round matchup before the Pumas staged the best comeback of this year’s postseason. Desmond Howard scored seven points in the final 45 seconds and hit a pair of game-winning free throws with three seconds remaining to stun the Bears, who were seen as state title contenders until a late-season swoon. Basha missed five free throws in the final minute to allow Perry to stage the remarkable rally. The Pumas advanced to the state quarterfinals as a No. 23 seed before their season was ended by Pinnacle.
Power points flaw: An alleged flaw in the power points system created some inequity in the seedings, as teams which played more games this season were unfairly rewarded. This alleged flaw affected all sports, but it was particularly noticeable in basketball because of the added games in the sectional tournaments. The alleged flaw allowed some teams to make the state tournament and others to miss out, and it greatly affected the seedings in every division. The flaw wasn’t realized until late in the season and there wasn’t time to change anything, but the error and the AIA’s perceived refusal to admit a possible flaw left some teams unhappy as the formula continutes to be reviewed.
Gary Ernst makes history: While the Mountain View postseason ended rather quickly in a second-round blowout loss to Desert Vista, Toros coach Gary Ernst still added another impressive accomplishment to his legendary career. Ernst missed a week of the regular season with a blood clot in his leg but returned to the bench soon after. In a first-round victory over Tucson Rincon, Ernst captured his 775th coaching victory to surpass Tucson Sahuaro’s Dick McConnell for the most all-time in Arizona history. Ernst has been a head coach since 1974, and the vast majority of his victories have come with the Toros in the past 24 seasons. He is 775-293 in his career.