The five Chandler Basha starting seniors came through on their word Tuesday night, raising the gold ball and fulfilling a prophecy they made four years ago when they gathered for a season-ending dinner as freshmen.
With seniors Gabe McGlothan and Terrell Brown leading the way, Basha completed a 30-win season with a 75-65 6A Conference boys basketball championship win over top-seed Tempe Corona del Sol before a crowd of about 6,000 at Grand Canyon University Arena.
ON FACEBOOK: Championship celebration photos
Senior guard Austin Picarello knocked down five free throws in the final 48 seconds to seal it. Brown then punctuated it with a steal of Alex Barcello and a layup as the game ended.
When they were freshmen, coach Mike Grothaus was in his first year at the school. And the varsity had just finished 10-16.
But they felt the program would quickly rise under the former Gilbert High player, who was a state champion in 2003 playing for his mentor, Tom Bennett.
BORDOW: It’s a true team title for Basha
Grothaus took Bennett’s team and defensive concepts and turned this into the greatest season in Basha history.
“We really bought into it, a bunch of us,” said McGlothan, who had 21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals in his final high school game. “Grothaus is an unbelievable coach. He really instilled we could win it.”
Basha never forced shots. The 6-foot-5, 220-pound McGlothan found open teammates for jump shots if he wasn’t able to power it up.
“I really punished them on the boards,” McGlothan said. “That was really our game plan.”
Brown exuded confidence on offense and defense, using his tremendous athleticism to disrupt passes and to knock down long 3s.
Brown’s 11 points, including three 3-pointers in a row, during a surge in less than 2 minutes changed the game.
“Especially, because we lost last year (in the semifinals), it is a great feeling,” said Brown, who is going to Northern Arizona to play wide receiver in football, but showed off Division I basketball skills with his 23 points, making 4 of 7 3-pointers, and blocking four shots. “We would argue about the other classes, if the 2017 class was the best. We did it. We showed them what’s up.”
Preseason No. 1 Basha (30-1) went from trailing 28-26 to leading 39-28 on Brown’s 11-point run.
Before that, McGlothan was doing damage down low, dominating Corona del Sol’s smaller defenders, scoring 12 points.
Basha had 26 points in the paint and committed just two turnovers in a near-flawless first half, arguably its best half of basketball this season.
Corona del Sol (26-4) was trying to return to the top after a fifth straight championship eluded the Azctecs last year with a quarterfinal loss to Phoenix Sunnyslope.
Guards Alex Barcello and Saben Lee, who were part of Corona del Sol’s fourth consecutive title two years ago, did their best to bring back the gold ball.
Barcello was on top of his game, driving, pulling up for shots and making great passes for baskets.
The Arizona signee had 23 points after three quarters to keep Corona del Sol in it, trailing 46-40, to start the final 8 minutes. Barcello had just two points in the final quarter.
Lee, a Vanderbilt signee, who had 39 points in the semifinals when he made 19 of 20 free throws, had 19 points on 5-of-20 shooting Tuesday, making 5 of 10 3-pointers.
“If you track their entire four-year career, they don’t lose much,” Grothaus said of his seniors. “They’re a tough, competitive group. Every single thing they do, they compete. I’m so proud of those guys.”
Even after McGlothan had to go the bench with a minute left in the third quarter after picking up his fourth foul, Basha players covered for him.
Senior Coleson Struhs nailed a 3 to start the final quarter. A little later, Brown drove the middle for a basket, giving Basha a 53-42 lead with little under 5 minutes to play.
McGlothan returned with 4:28 left and continued to make plays at both ends of the court around the basket.
He pulled down a big rebound with his team up by 11. He then went to the line and made a free throw for Basha’s biggest lead, 56-44, with 3:40 left.
That wasn’t enough.
Brown found McGlothan inside for a dunk with 3:05 to play and the lead was 14.
Picarello was clutch at the line in the final minute when Corona was trying to make a run.
“We’ve always talked about our senior year would be our chance,” Picarello said. “All of the work we did together, it was just a special team. We all bought in.”