Eighth-ranked Tempe Corona del Sol isn’t as big as last year’s state championship team. But it plays fast, aggressively and, when it gets in a rhythm, it knocks down 3-pointers at rapid-fire pace.
It did that Friday night, beating visiting No. 4 Mesa Dobson 72-64 in a Division I boys basketball game.
Junior guard Casey Benson led Corona del Sol’s frenetic pace with 28 points, constantly attacking the glass and spotting up for jump shots. He made two 3-pointers late in the first quarter and put a dagger in Dobson’s comeback hopes with a 3 shortly after Colorado-signee Jaron Hopkins fouled out with 6:52 to play.
“Now he’s a marked man,” Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane Jr., said about Casey. “He has made adjustments. Every one of our guys are in different roles.”
Corona del Sol (7-1) last year had Avery Moss and Andrus Peat – two high school football All-American – manning the post. This year’s team doesn’t have husky football players to mop up undeneathe. It is a team comprised mostly of scrappy guards and wings.
Bryan Siefker did a good job defending the 6-foot-4 Hopkins, who had an impressive one-hand jam in traffic and swooping layup within 11 seconds that cut Corona del Sol’s lead to 27-26 midway through the second quarter.
After Hopkins (12 total points) went to the bench with three fouls with 3:13 left in the half, Corona del Sol went on a 7-0 lead and opened up a 13-point lead.
“We just wanted to come out and be aggressive and play as hard as possible,” Benson said. “Jaron had a real good first-half. We just wanted to front him and play real good team defense.”
Dobson (7-2) got talented junior guard Kodi Justice back from a broken foot. He played limited minutes, but gave Dobson a spark in the third quarter after Hopkins went back to the bench with his fourth foul.
His driving basket cut Corona del Sol’s lead to nine. But Dobson couldn’t get any closer than seven points in the final quarter, as Benson’s 3 pushed Corona del Sol’s lead to 10 with 6:38 left.
“Very good group of kids, very coachable and they all like each other,” Duane said. “We took some charges on (Hopkins). We put Brian on everybody’s best player. We did that last year and this year. He’s a tough, hard-nosed kid.”
Corona del Sol made eight 3-pointers.
“We do it a different way than we did it last year,” Duane said.