TEMPE — Point guard Casey Benson made three 3-pointers in the first quarter, Bryan Siefker came up with a huge steal to stop Scottsdale Desert Mountain’s late surge, and sophomore Cassius Peat came down with the biggest rebound of the night.
It added up to a 61-53 victory at Arizona State’s Wells Fargo Arena that moved top-seed Tempe Corona del Sol into the Division I final for the second consecutive year.
Corona del Sol (28-4) will try to make it two state championships in a row at Jobing.com Arena on Saturday at 4 p.m. when it plays third-seed Phoenix Pinnacle, which is making its first appearance in the final after its 69-59 semifinal win over Laveen Cesar Chavez.
Corona del Sol beat Pinnacle 69-65 in the VisitMesa.Com Challenge in late December.
“We went hard yesterday (in practice),” Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane Jr., said. “We got to being competitive. I think it helped us tonight.”
Benson carried Corona del Sol all season with his clutch play.
He did it again Thursday, making 8 of 14 field goals and scoring 22 points , handing out four assists and making three steals.
“He’s a big-time player,” Duane said.
But it was the role players who stepped up and helped Benson get Corona del Sol through an intense semifinal.
Despite having four fouls, Siefker took a chance and timed a pass in Desert Mountain’s end of the court. He deflected it, chased the ball down to the other end and caught it and called time out just before going out of bounds with his team leading 49-45 with a little more than two minutes left.
Benson drove the lane for a basket after the time out for a 51-45 lead.
Fifth-seed Desert Mountain (25-6) battled back with Will Goff (16 points) hitting his second 3 of the fourth quarter to make it a three-point game. Point guard Rolando Rhymes (18 points) scored on a reverse and Desert Mountain got within 52-50 with 1:21 to play.
After Siefer made the first free throw with 1:17 left, he missed the second. But Peat came down with the long rebound and Corona del Sol cashed in at the line to make it a four-point game.
Adam Gleave (13 points, 11 rebounds) converted a three-point play with 28 seconds left and Braden Tennyson and Jarrett Givens made two free throws each for Corona del Sol.
“I said it all year long, we find a way to win,” Duane said. “We make plays when we need to make plays.”