GLENDALE — Of course, Sanders Valley and Winslow had to make it interesting in the final minutes of the Division III state-title game Saturday at Jobing.com Arena. After all, the seats were jammed with fans down from the North just to see it.
But after blowing a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, Winslow hung on in the final few minutes to win 45-40 and claim the ninth state title in its basketball program’s history. Winslow (27-5) also took an extra step on the bracket after its championship-game loss to Page last season.
“It’s just finally great to say that we did it,” senior Halle Hayes said.
Valley — a short, scrappy team that shoots as if with GPS guidance and plays defense like a swarm of bees — held an early 14-8 lead, forcing nine turnovers in the first quarter and gassing Winslow’s players who tried to guard their Valley counterparts oneonone.
But then Winslow coach Jerron Jordan switched to a 2-3 zone that had been effective in limiting Holbrook the night before in the semifinals, and Valley (27-4) went cold.
After taking a 26-21 lead into the half, Winslow held Valley to just two points in the third quarter.
Valley had one last gasp, though.
Tamara Nez hit two big 3-pointers to give Valley a 37-36 lead with 4:16 left in the game, the last it would hold.
“I think we were kind of laying off a little bit,” Hayes said. “We got kind of complacent knowing we had the lead.”
Winslow sophomore Shandiin Armao put back her own miss with less than 3:30 remaining, and Winslow scored five of its final seven points on free throws to seal the win.
Winslow owned the area under the basket, outscoring Valley 30-14 inside and winning the rebounding battle 43-28.
Armao had 17 points on 7-of-8 shooting and added 21 rebounds, and fellow post Hayes had 12 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Mattea Begaii had 10 points, five assists and three steals.
Valley, which was making its first title-game appearance since 1980, was led by Adriana Nez with 11 points.