On paper, a game between teams seeded at No. 3 and No. 19 shouldn't have been close.
Just don't tell that to the Red Mountain and Mountain Pointe boys basketball programs.
In a game that was tied until 5.5 seconds were left, a free throw by senior Justin Park secured the 48-47 win for the Mountain Lions in the second round of the Division I state tournament Saturday.
"It was pretty crazy," Red Mountain senior Juan Zuniga said. "We knew that they were going to be a tough game coming in and we didn't put them down as we could beat them easy or anything, but they did come out and fight."
The Pride fought the entire game, even through stretches of both offensive and defensive inefficiency was their downfall in the end. Mountain Pointe came out defensively playing a 2-3 zone, which the Mountain Lions took advantage of by scoring most of their points in the first quarter off perimeter jump shots.
Red Mountain took a 30-26 lead into halftime and came out of the break hot and pushed it to an 11-point lead midway through the third.
The Mountain Lions shut down Mountain Pointe's offensive leaders for as long as they could, but junior Khari Holloway eventually broke through.
Holloway singlehandedly brought back the Pride's rhythm on the offensive side of the floor, willing the team to a 40-35 deficit entering the fourth quarter. Holloway finished with a game-high 19 points, three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
After picking up the pressure on both ends of the floor in the second half, Mountain Pointe had the ball in its hands with a chance to win the game in the final minute.
Coming out of a timeout with 30 seconds left, Pride sophomore Jalen Brown saw a wide-open lane and tried to drive for an easy layup. Before reaching the basket, Brown ran into Park in the paint and was called for a charge.
"It could go either way," said Mountain Pointe junior Tre Campbell, who scored 10 points to go along with five rebounds and three blocks. "It was a big game-breaker right there."
With his team in possession of the ball, Red Mountain senior Logan Larsen drove into the paint, but missed his attempted shot. Park, who scored 12 points and brought down five rebounds, picked up the rebound and was fouled by Campbell on his way up for the score.
Park made only the first of the two free throws, but with no timeouts and the clock ticking down, Mountain Pointe had to settle for a prayer from sophomore Austin Witherill. The shot bounced off the left side of the backboard and the Mountain Lions advanced to the tournament's third round.
"Every time you win against a good team, you get better," Red Mountain coach Greg Sessions said. "I'm hoping we're better in the next game and keep getting better for a whole week."
During his team's loss in the championship game of the Division I, Section III tournament, Sessions was ejected after his second technical foul and was suspended from coaching Saturday's game. While assistant coach Scott Newendyke took over in his spot, Sessions said he was happy for and proud of his team.
The Mountain Lions move on to play No. 6 Cesar Chavez on Tuesday at Arizona State's Wells Fargo Arena.
For Mountain Pointe, this loss hurts.
Coach Brian Fleming said his team was prepared to make the game-winning shot, but it just didn't happen. He was proud of the way the Pride bounced back in the third, which reminded him of how they've played all season.
"All year long we've fought back," Fleming said. "We've had deficits before and we always seem to come back. We always seem to be close."
Close didn't cut it on Saturday as Mountain Pointe reached the end of its season.
"You've got three kids that are coming back that are just dynamic players," Fleming said. "It's a good season from that standpoint."
Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.