Once again, top-ranked Glendale Apollo and No. 2 Phoenix Sunnyslope engaged in a basketball classic that needed overtime periods to be decided.
This time, Sunnyslope shut down all lanes from Holland Woods on the last play, keeping him from getting off in time what would have been the game-winning basket.
Woods’ shot went in, but, after officials reviewed it, they waved if off, saying the ball was released after the buzzer.
Sunnyslope players and fans, holding their collective breaths, erupted and celebrated a 58-57 double-overtime victory and the 5A Conference boys basketball championship Monday night before 6,000 fans at Grand Canyon University Arena.
This was the third meeting between the teams, and all were close, with a total of five OTs.
When the teams met on Jan. 17, Apollo (26-4) won in three overtimes with Woods taking over and scoring 41 points.
Woods did his best to do it again, scoring 33 points.
But Sunnyslope (27-4) overcame missed free throws and shots, while surrendering a 13-point lead in the final 6 minutes of regulation, then overcame a three-point deficit in the final minute of the second OT to capture the school’s third state title and first since 2009.
“These are two teams that are tough and don’t want to lose the game,” said Sunnyslope coach Ray Portela, who pulled it out with all underclassmen on the roster. “They scratch. They claw. With these two teams, it comes down to one point and one-tenth of a second.”
Junior guard Kyle Fischer scored five points in the final 40 seconds of the second OT. He was able to pull down a rebound on his missed free throw, then scored with 31 seconds left to give Sunnyslope a 56-55 lead.
Woods, abandoning the 3-point shot and ducking, bobbing and weaving to the basket most of the game, scored on a drive with 17 seconds lead to regain the lead for Apollo.
Fischer, who had 17 points and eight rebounds, was left free down the court and he had to be fouled with 7.8 seconds left.
He made both free throws, and Apollo called timeout to design one last play for Woods.
Woods got trapped at mid-court by the 6-foot-4 Fischer, who moved his feet and used his long arms to cut off lanes.
Woods lost control of the dribble, before regaining it, then maneuvering near the corner. But time expired before he launched an awkward shot that somehow found the bottom of the net.
“It all worked out in the end,” said 6-5 junior forward Chris Orozco, who hit his first eight shots and finished with 25 points.
Apollo, especially Woods, showed great determination and defense after falling into a 13-point hole with less than 6 minutes to play in regulation.
“They’re a tough team,” Fischer said. “We just made shots when we needed them.”
On the last play, Sunnyslope was trying to keep the ball out of Woods’ hands.
“We tried to trap (Woods), so that he would have to pull back and waste some time,” Fischer said.
Apollo coach Jacob Marin felt the defensive lapse with Fischer getting open for a long downcourt pass was costly.
“We had a great opportunity to put the game away when we went up three,” Marin said. “We missed a couple of free throws, and we had bone-head breakdown plays on defense and put them on the free-throw line.”