Chandler Hamilton pushed top-ranked Tempe Corona del Sol around with a tough, physical defense, forcing a sluggish game.
It then pushed tempo in the final quarter with point guard Michael Garcia leading host and unranked Hamilton’s 40-37 Division I boys basketball victory Friday night over the defending state champs.
“This is what we work hard for,” said Garcia, who scored his team’s first eight points of the final quarter.
Garcia’s pull-up jumper on the break with 2:30 left gave Hamilton (16-6) its biggest lead, 35-31.
“Corona’s been at the top,” Hamilton coach Kevin Hartwig said. “That was our motivation. This why you play. You come to play the best to see if you got a chance.”
Hamilton got Corona del Sol (20-3) playing in its third game of the week and the second of back-to-back nights. It won at suddenly hot Phoenix Mountain Pointe by 18 points on Thursday night.
“Our guys battled and fought,” Hartwig said. “We knew they were coming off a hard-fought game at Mountain Pointe. We knew their legs would be a little tired. They didn’t shoot particularly well. But I think defensively we did some good things on them.”
Guard Casey Benson had 19 points to lead Corona del Sol, but he wasn’t able to get off a 3-pointer in the end, as Hamilton had him well-guarded. Benson passed off to Adam Gleave, who missed a 3 from the corner as time expired.
Gleave’s 3 with two minutes left cut Hamilton’s lead to one. Corona del Sol managed onlhy three Benson free throws the rest of the game. Benson had a chance to tie the game with nine seconds left, but he missed 1 of 2 free throws.
Nate Walker made two free throws with 7.9 seconds left, giving Hamilton a 40-37 lead.
Corona del Sol had an eight-game winning streak snapped.
“They just really are physical and they defend hard,” Corona del Sol coach Sammy Duane Jr., said. “They play everybody that way. They got the game into what they wanted it.”
Benson hurt his ankle with less than six minutes left after falling on a 3-point attempt. He left the game briefly and walked around the bench, before re-entering the game less than a minute later. A short time later, he scored on a strong move to the basket. Duane said Benson would be fine.
Corona went to zone defense much of the game, but Hamilton patiently worked for good shots.
“The whole game I kept telling myself and my teammates to relax,” Garcia said. “This is a huge confidence boost.”