A 13-point lead against Snowflake is never safe.
Phoenix Cortez found that out Thursday, as the hustling White Mountains team fought back with defense and the fast break to escape with a 68-65 Division III boys basketball quarterfinal win at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
Snowflake (27-3) advances to Friday’s 1:30 semifinal against Tucson Palo Verde Magnet.
Senior swingman Christian Hakilimali’s 26 points and 21 rebounds weren’t enough for Cortez (22-5), which missed a 3-point attempt from the corner as time expired.
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Guard Tanner Crosby scored Snowflake’s final seven points on a 3-pointer with 1:30 left that tied it, a drive in traffic with 1:04 to play that gave Snowflake a one-point lead, and two free throws with seven seconds left that gave his team a three-point lead.
During that last frantic 1:30, Cortez managed just one point, a Hakilimali free throw with 50 seconds left.
“I think anybody on our team can be that guy,” said Crosby, who finished with 13 points. “We trust each other.”
Cortez relies on Hakilimali and guard Trevan Newman for its offense. While Hakilimali was on, Newman was off on Thursday.
Newman had nine points on three of 14 shooting.
Hakilimali was tenacious on the boards, scoring many of his points on offensive rebounds. He had six offensive rebounds.
But after getting up by 13 in the first two minutes of the third quarter, Cortez stopped attacking the glass as hard, and Snowflake caught fire with Crosby hitting a 3 to ignite the comeback.
Snowflake got within 52-48 to end the third quarter, then went ahead with 6:12 to play on Jordan Gardner’s layup.
“We stopped being aggressive,” said Cortez coach Tarik James, who led his alma mater to its first sectional championship in 26 years. “We were being too protective of the lead, instead of adding to it.
“Some of that was nerves. Tre was off today. He had to find ways to score for himself.”
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Crosby had a lot of help. Center Travis Flake had 25 points and 10 rebounds.
Snowflake had 45 rebounds and made seven of 24 3-pointers. Cortez was held to one of 12 from behind the arc.
But it was defense that sparked Snowflake’s transition when it needed it most.
“We just needed our defensive intensity,” Crosby said. “We didn’t have it all game. It sparks our offense in transition, and that’s what we do best.”
Photos: 2015 high school boys basketball state tournament
Desert Vista’s David Powell embraces Quincy Taylor (5) after a win against Mesa Mountain View in a Division I semifinal game at GCU Arena in Phoenix, AZ on February 28, 2015.