With 3 minutes, 31 seconds left in the fourth quarter of the 6A Conference girls basketball state championship, Rysha Banner delivered a perfect bounce pass to Taylor Chavez for an easy layup that put Surprise Valley Vista up four points over Goodyear Millennium.
It might not make the highlights – and barely made a dent in the box score – but for Banner and Valley Vista, that play was the epitome of No. 3-seeded Valley Vista’s 44-36 win over No. 4 Millennium on Tuesday at Grand Canyon University Arena.
“That’s what’s so great about Valley, we play team basketball,” Valley Vista coach Rachel Matakas said. “We’re not two, we’re not one. … They had to pick their poison, and obviously, tonight they picked the wrong poison.”
That poison had a name – Banner.
The junior, who played for Millennium as a freshman, tallied 16 points and six assists – 11 points coming in the second half – while helping Valley Vista (25-6) take that final step after being ousted in the state semifinals last season.
“It means a lot,” Banner said. “Transferring was my family’s issue. We moved houses so I had to go, but it meant a lot. All my friends still supported me, so it felt good to bring (the championship) back to Valley.”
That championship didn’t come easy.
Led by Ali Zelaya, who tallied a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, Millennium (25-7) gave Valley Vista all it could handle and more. Millennium even held a lead as late as with 6:46 left in the fourth quarter before Banner and the Valley Vista defense took control.
“Pressure-wise, we struggled early and throughout,” Millennium coach Cory Rojeck said. “They did a good job … making us feel uncomfortable.”
The pressure of a state championship wasn’t limited to just Millennium. Both teams struggled with turnovers offensively in the first half, leading to a little bit of a slugfest in the first half.
“We knew it was going to be a slugfest,” Matakas said. “Hats off to Millennium, they have a class program. But at the end of the day, our experience showed up.”
It looked like Millennium might get some momentum back at the end of the first half when Dominique Phillips drained a 3-pointer from just inside the half-court line at the buzzer to close the gap to 17-14, but that’s when Banner took control.
“Talk about going from a low to a high,” Rojeck said. “I wanted a set play that we run at the end of the quarter a lot. I don’t think they heard me, so I’m getting mad. … She shot it and I went from ‘What the heck is going on?’ to ‘OK, good shot.’ ”
Banner said that just holding that piece of nylon from the net at the end of the night is the only thing that she wanted.
“A lot of people have family issues on our team, and we’ve had a ton of injuries throughout the season,” Banner said. “We’ve been through so much throughout the season, and I’m just glad we put it all together.”