GLENDALE — Dorian Pickens couldn’t be stopped. Phoenix Pinnacle was rolling. And Tempe Corona del Sol’s huge orange student section got quiet.
It erupted late with Casey Benson shaking off a poor shooting night with precise passing, the defense stifling Pinnacle into a crawl, and Corona del Sol escaping with a 63-59 victory and its second consecutive Division I boys basketball championship Saturday at Jobing.com Arena.
Senior guard Drew Bender , with Benson on him, missed a high-arcing 3-point try that would have tied it with 11 seconds left.
“We’ve been in similar positions,” said Benson, who had 12 points on 3 of 13 shooting but six assists and only two turnovers (both charges). “We wanted to keep fighting and leave nothing on the floor.”
Third-seed Pinnacle (26-7) scored 28 points in the opening quarter with junior guard Dorian Pickens hitting four 3-pointers in the game’s first 3 ½ minutes, tipping in misses, and scoring 18 points in those electric eight mintues.
Top-seed Corona del Sol (29-5) fell into a nine-point hole late in the second quarter.
“Early on, we said, ‘If they keep shooting like that, then they deserve to win,’ ‘’ Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane Jr., said. “We didn’t think they could.”
They were right.
Pinnacle scored only two points in the final 3:23 and watched a seven-point lead slip away, as Benson constantly attacked the lane and delivered two passes that resulted in five points – a cutting basket by Adam Gleave and a three-point play by sophomore Cassius Peat with 1:14 left that gave Corona del Sol a 58-57 lead, its first since that frantic opening.
“I thought we were going to win the whole game,” said Peat, who had 12 points and seven rebounds. “Casey made a great pass in there.”
Bryan Siefker off-set Benson’s cold outside shooting with five 3-pointers, the biggest coming with three minutes left cutting into a seven-point deficit.
“I knew I had to step it up and provide scoring just because they score so much,” said Siefker, who led four Corona del Sol players in double figures scoring with 19 points.
Pinnacle scored just seven third-quarter points, all by Bender.
Bender and Pickens, who have carried Pinnacle the past two seasons, both had 24 points. But the usually clutch shooting Trey Ingram got out of a rhthm expending so much energy guarding Benson and he missed all eight of his shots, three from behind the arc.
“The pace of the game in the second half got away from us,” Pinnacle coach Charlie Wilde said. “We just needed to start going faster.”