Dom Ciccaglione didn’t hesitate. He dribbled once and fired. Swish. From 35 feet.
That 3-point basket brought No. 15 Peoria Liberty within one with 5:16 to play.
It also sparked a 28-point final quarter that carried Liberty to a 93-89 victory over host No. 2 Phoenix Arcadia on Wednesday night in the first round of the 5A Conference boys basketball tournament.
Asked what the win meant, a hoarse Mark Wood said, “It means were going to Tucson Saturday.”
Liberty (20-10), which has won twice as many games as last season, will play at No. 10 Tucson Sahuaro in the quarterfinals.
Although the coach lost his voice somewhere during a flurry of points in the final quarter, Wood never lost faith, sticking with the season-long mantra: “Trust the process.”
“Honestly, we’re about process,” Wood said. “Process, process, process. We needed effort for 32 minutes. We have faith in what we do. We have tough guys.”
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Wood never cringed when Ciccaglione fired up the 35-footer that cut it to 77-76 and was part of a 16-7 run from the third to the fourth quarter after Liberty was down 70-61 in the final minutes of the third quarter.
Wood gives everybody the green light.
“We play loose,” he said. “The program belongs to the players. We have trust.”
Ciccaglione wasn’t concerned about the distance on his shot.
“Coach always preaches to us, ‘If you’ve got a shot, take it,”’ Ciccaglione said. “All of us can shoot it. His trust is what makes us go.”
Liberty scored the first basket of the game but trailed the rest of the way, before Ciccaglione’s layup with 1:44 to play gave the Lions a lead they wouldn’t lose again.
Arcadia turned the ball over twice and showed fatigue on its 3-point tries down the stretch during a 9-0 Liberty spurt.
“We were really looking forward to this game,” said guard Jacob Edahl, whose 3 tied it at 80-80 with 2:53 to play. “It was a good matchup for us.
“We knew they were going to get tired in the second half. They never faced a team that presses the whole game.”
Arcadia (23-5) led by as many as 10 points midway through the third quarter, before Liberty did a better job of blocking out on the boards on defense and suddenly got hot.
Liberty made 10 3-pointers, five by Connor Ray.
Arcadia was led by Reed Richardson and Aiden Weber, who each had 17 points.
“All year, we always preach, ‘Never stop,’ no matter how it’s going,” Ciccaglione said. “You’ve got to trust the process.”
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at email@example.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert
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