Second-seeded Basha advanced to its first state championship with a 43-38 victory over No. 3 Desert Vista in the 6A Conference semifinals at Gila River Arena.
The Bears turned to a couple of their traits that they relied on all year long to get past the Thunder.
“We defended and we rebounded, that’s been our calling card all year long,” Basha coach Mike Grothaus said. “When it mattered most, our guys got stops and rebounds.”
Terrell Brown was limited to 11 points, which allowed Gabe McGlothan to get looks underneath the basket, including an alley-oop in the final minutes of the fourth quarter that pushed the Bears to a seven-point lead.
This was a low-scoring game for the Bears, who usually average 55.7 points per game. Where they did shine, however, was in out rebounding the Thunder by six.
The senior center McGlothan came out of the second half with even more passion to win the game. He says the team recognized that they had a job to do when they stepped back onto the court.
“We couldn’t let them get back in the game,” he said. “They hit a couple shots but we stayed poised and really tried to get the next one and keep the same distance or grow it.”
McGlothan had 17 points and seven total rebounds against the Thunder.
Now that the Bears have moved to Tuesday’s championship game against Corona del Sol, Grothaus says it’s all about continuing to play their game.
“Keep defending and keep rebounding and then, you know, we’ll see what happens,” he said.
Despite keeping it close and sinking a couple of great shots in the first half, the Thunder just couldn't pull ahead of the Bears.
Desert Vista coach Gino Crump said the Thunder had an off night.
“It was a really bad offensive performance for us, we average 70 points a game and we just didn’t play our best basketball,” Crump said.
The Thunder tried to pick up speed after pushing the score to 23-22 before the half. However, with significant fouls and turnovers, they just could not gain enough momentum.
Despite Caleb Simmons connecting on a 3-point shot to end out the half and an incredible dunk by Wesley Harris, the Thunder completed less than 50 percent of their shots.
“They did a good job, but we just came out slow and we finished slow. It was a bad overall offensive performance for us,” Crump said. “Guys that typically shoot the ball, just weren’t shooting the ball well.”
Simmons shined on the court for the Thunder, despite the pressure, scoring 19 of their 38 points.
“Caleb Simmons played like a senior, he really played hard,” Crump said, “It was a good performance by him.”
– Gooden is a sports journalism student at Arizona State.