The second seed prevailed in overtime as Skyline Prep overcame a comeback effort by No. 1-seeded Tri-City Christian Academy for a 69-65 win and the Division 3 state championship on Friday at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
The victory marked the first state title for Skyline (21-4), which led until the final minute of regulation. A couple of fouls gave Tri-City (21-1) its first lead at 61-60 after trailing by 16 points in the third quarter.
“It felt a little bit like David and Goliath,” Skyline coach Jace Romero said. “(Tri-City coach) Paul Brown has built a phenomenal program. My guys did everything I asked of them. It’s all about them, that’s all I can say.”
Tri-City senior and Kansas State signee Nigel Shadd won the tip-off, but Skyline captain Seth Taylor drilled a 3-pointer to take control early. Skyline continued to dominate from beyond the arc, as junior forward Lemaica Taylor and senior guard Jamez Pearson also drained 3s.
Skyline took a 41-26 lead at halftime.
Midway through the third, the Tri-City offense finally sparked, closing the gap on an eight-point run.
“There’s times I lost my cool, they lost their cool,” Romero said. “But to be able to not take it personal, but take it for what it is and bounce back, I mean it was really, (Pearson), he’s the man when it comes to that.”
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Pearson earned MVP honors with 19 points.
“I just kept my mind on the clock,” he said. “I didn’t rush anything, I told the guys ‘One possession, one stop and we’ll get the win.’ ”
With just under 2 minutes left, sophomore forward Taylor Ball pulled Tri-City within one. Taylor drew the team’s 10th foul, sending senior guard Grant Jones to the free-throw line with 10 seconds left.
He sent the game to overtime.
Despite Shadd scoring twice in extra minutes, Taylor’s final free throw sealed the win.
“It’s amazing going out my senior year like this,” Pearson said. “We battled, they battled. Overall, it was a good win.”
The top-seeded San Tan Charter boys basketball team captured the Canyon Athletic Association Division 1 state championship title, defeating No. 3 Starshine Academy 64-47.
With each in its first season of varsity basketball in the CAA, San Tan Charter (14-1) had outscored opponents by at least 27 points in 11 of its 15 victories, while Starshine’s margin was at least 20 in 10 of its 12 victories.
It ended with San Tan Charter coach Jay Gonzales’ team on top.
“We prepped them everyday,” he said. “We took care of business. The next step is pursuing the goal of pushing these boys to play college ball.”
Junior Tony Clardy got the MVP nod, tallying 22 points.
“It’s a special win,” Clardy said. “Playing on this court, I’ve never stepped on a court like this. All of the hard work paid off, and I owe it all to Coach Gonzales and my family.”
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Clardy averaged 14.1 points per game during the regular season, behind junior Dante Gonzales, the coach’s son.
The pair set the pace, hitting back-to-back 3s within the opening 3 minutes. Starshine (12-1) struggled to garner chances at the paint, trailing 17-8 by the end of the first quarter.
Starshine senior center Albert Yond found a rhythm in the second quarter, pulling his team within five at 2 minutes left before the half. Then, sophomore David Leyva hit Starshine’s first 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 23-21.
But an eight-point run by San Tan Charter made it a 31-25 game at halftime.
Yond scored 19 points, while junior George Trejo had 15.
“The fact that were were spreading the ball better, opening up the court for us was huge,” Gonzales said. “We have pretty quick guards, and we were able to handle any pressure or situation that they put us in.”
Gonzales finished with 14 points, while freshman guard Kristofer Sippel also hit double digits with 12.
No. 1-seeded Desert Heights Prep defended its Division 2 state title in beating No. 2 Imagine Prep 89-86.
The victory is Desert Heights’ third in the past five years.
“It’s extremely hard to repeat,” coach Percy Kincaid said. “Every year is hard. The first year was difficult. The second year was even more difficult. It’s something that doesn’t happen a whole lot, but the kids worked their butts off, so it all goes to them.”
Senior point guard and captain Brandon Haldiman scored 24 points, ending his high school basketball career as the game’s MVP.
“I think we couldn’t have done it without preparation we went through all season,” he said. “We knew what we wanted to do. We had it in the back of our heads not to overlook anyone, but we knew we wanted to come here and win.”
A 10-point run at the start of the first quarter by Imagine Prep (16-2) proved to be not enough to keep Desert Heights (10-1) at bay.
Imagine Prep senior point guard KJ Smith and Haldiman matched each other layup-for-layup. Desert Heights had a slim halftime lead at 46-45.
Smith finished with 54 points, tying the record for most points in a championship game.
“We knew they were shooters,” Kincaid said. “They have four, five great shooters. We were going to allow (Smith) to score his two points and minimize the 3-pointers.”
A few mistakes at the free-throw line stalled Desert Heights, keeping the game tied at 50 with 5 minutes to go in the third. Desert Heights cashed in on a six-point run, keeping Imagine Prep scoreless for a 1:30.
With Smith on the court, it wouldn’t last long.
He got off a layup mid-dive to pull Imagine Prep within five points.
An effort by Smith and junior guard Jason Bell, who finished with three field goals, kept fans of both teams on their toes as the game came down to the final minutes.
Junior Deontae McInnis hit two free throws to give Desert Heights the edge.
“I’m at a loss for words honestly,” Haldiman said. ‘It hasn’t hit me yet. I’m on cloud nine. I think my time here has been one to remember. I think everyone I’ve spent my time here with will be in my whole life, and I can look back and enjoy the memories.”