Avondale Agua Fria point guard Isaiah Lopez was getting ready to leave the gym for Jobing.com Arena on Wednesday when he noticed something missing. His bag. It had his jersey No. 1 in it.
“A lot of kids were waiting to take the fan bug and our bags were together,” Lopez said. “Someone happened to take mine.
“I felt like someone was trying to not let me play. It just motivated me to play harder.”
No.7-seed Nogales (23-7) saw that during a late third quarter surge triggered by Lopez that led to Agua Fria’s 69-62 Division II boys basketball quarterfinal victory.
Lopez, wearing 24, defended, shot and passed No.18-seeded Agua Fria (17-12) into Thursday’s semifinal against Tucson Salpointe Catholic after his team got down 45-36 midway through the third quarter.
His three-point play with 2:42 left tied the score at 45-45.
Aaron Hall scored inside twice and Agua Fria finished a 13-0 run to close the quarter.
“We had a strong third quarter but we started throwing the ball away,” Nogales coach Ricardo De La Riva said.
It started shortly after point guard Andres Marquez fouled out. Marquez scored six points during Nogales’ 15-3 run to open the third quarter.
Agua Fria kept pressuring and Nogales kept turning the ball over. And when Agua Fria missed shots, one of its 6-feet-2 players were there to grab it and put it in. Agua Fria doesn’t have a player on its roster over 6-2.
“This team has so much heart,” Agua Fria coach Matt O’Meara said. “We’ve been down by as much as 16 and they just find a way to come back. I wish we would get that lead.”
Nogales closed to within 62-59 on Bryan Cervantes’ layup with 1:18 left.
Agua Fria made five free throws and hit a basket in the last minute.
“All five of us rebound,” Lopez said. “As long as we play hard, we’ll be in the game.”