Boys state basketball: Pride falls in heartbreaker - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Game Day

Boys state basketball: Pride falls in heartbreaker

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Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013 11:55 pm | Updated: 9:30 pm, Fri Jan 31, 2014.

Mountain Pointe had the right guy with the ball. It was the right shot from 10 feet away. It was in the basket.

And then, it wasn't.

The ball rolled around and came out, the buzzer blared, Corona del Sol had pulled a rabbit out of its hat for a fourth time in the game's final 10 minutes of play, and the top-seeded team refused to leave.

In bleary-eyed fashion, it was a 66-65 win for No. 1-seed and defending-champion Corona del Sol on Saturday night in the second round of the Division I state tournament.

After 40 minutes and two overtimes, a Khari Holloway shot which circled the rim and came out was the last moment of the 2012-2013 season for Mountain Pointe.

Corona's student section stormed the court in such fury that a few of the school's bleachers were broken by the weight of kids feet all at once.

It was widely viewed by both teams afterward as the best game participants have been a part of in their lifetimes (outside a state championship game), including Corona athletic director Dan Nero, a 28-year veteran of athletics.

"I don't even know how to describe this," Corona del Sol point guard and hero-of-the-night Casey Benson said. "Just a tremendous game."

Seemingly on the brink of elimination a handful of times from the fourth quarter onward, Corona del Sol will instead face No. 8 Millennium in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena.

But it didn't happen after a Mountain Pointe comeback and not even after Benson sent the game to both overtimes because of his two brands of last-second heroics.

It happened only after a three-pointer by Bryan Siefker with six seconds left in the second overtime to forge a 66-65 Corona lead, before Holloway's final drive.

It was (unofficially) Siefker's second shot attempt of the game. His first was a missed dunk in the first quarter that had Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane Jr. steaming at the time.

"He's forgiven now," Duane Jr. said afterward with a smile.

Siefker did something similar during last year's sectional tournament, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the final 30 seconds during the Aztecs' championship run. His shot Saturday was contested and came off penetration by Benson, who had three Pride defenders chasing him around the baseline.

"Had to take it, had to make it," the senior said. "There was no other option."

The Pride showed why they had little business being a No. 16 seed, and both sides knew coming in this wouldn't be a double-digit margin the way previous meetings had been this season (all won by Corona). The Pride came back from a 41-34 deficit in the fourth quarter behind Holloway (30 points), whose three-pointer gave the Pride a 48-47 lead, followed by a steal and layup. Then he made two more free throws and it was 52-49 with 14 seconds left in regulation.

But Benson - arguably the top point guards in the state as a junior and one of a couple remaining significant contributors from last year's championship run - drove to the basket, made the layup and was fouled. He hit the free throw and the Pride couldn't get a good look to end regulation.

"I'm proud to be their coach," Mountain Pointe coach Aaron Windler said. "They executed the game plan, guys stepped up one after another and played the hardest they possibly could."

Mountain Pointe stayed the course with Holloway and pounded the ball inside to Chris Davis for a quick lead in the first overtime. Dominic Reyes made one of two free throws for a 61-58 lead with 11 seconds left. True to Windler's philosophy, the Pride elected to play defense rather than foul and send Corona to the free-throw line and stop the clock.

But Benson burned the Pride again, this time with a three-pointer with eight seconds left to tie the game again at 61-61. Mountain Pointe went the length of the floor but couldn't get a quality shot off in time.

"He's the best player in the state," Windler said of Benson.

Each team only managed a couple possessions in the second overtime. Holloway again came up with a pullup jumper and hit two free throws for the Pride to forge an early lead. But Benson scored to pull Corona within one possession.

Mountain Pointe missed its subsequent opportunity down the floor, and that set up Siefker's shot off a Benson feed.

Mountain Pointe quickly came back down the court, but Holloway's floater in the lane went 'round-and-out.

"It just wasn't meant to be," Windler said. "Sometimes things happen for a reason and we don't know why until years later. It was an unbelievable game played too early in this tournament. It was unbelievable."

In addition to Holloway's 30 points for Mountain Pointe, Jalen Brown hit a big 3-pointer in overtime and was a second-quarter spark offensively with 10 of his 13 points in the quarter. Emmanuel Butler added 11 points and Davis finished with nine as a more impactful presence after halftime.

Benson scored 23 of his 28 points after halftime. Cassius Peat added 13 for the Aztecs.

"By far the most crazy, epic game I've been in," Siefker said as he walked out of his school's gym.

But with practice on Monday, it wasn't for the final time.

Heller is the sports editor of the East Valley Tribune.

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