Corona and Pinnacle offered a Division I championship game that outdid last year’s meeting for drama and excitement, and the Aztecs prevailed once again. Behind a scoop shot from Casey Benson with 30 seconds left in overtime and one last defensive stand, Corona claimed its third straight state title with a 71-70 victory at Jobing.com Arena.
The top-seeded Aztecs, who outlasted Pinnacle for a four-point win in last year’s title game, trailed by six midway through the fourth quarter this time around, but took a 60-58 lead on a Benson 3-pointer with 1:28 left in regulation. Corona again trailed in the waning seconds of regulation before Benson sank two free throws with 10 seconds left to put the Aztecs up 62-61.
That is when the drama meter was kicked up a notch.
Corona and its fans thought the game was over when Pinnacle missed two shots at a game-winner.
But Ben Wahlberg was fouled as the buzzer sounded. Wahlberg’s put-back was negated after the officials looked at replays from the FOX Sports Arizona broadcast and the junior was sent to the free throw line with 0.3 seconds left.
Wahlberg, who had not scored up to that point, rolled in the first free throw to tie the game after the long replay delay and then a Corona timeout to ice him. He came up short on the second.
Pinnacle again edged in front late in overtime before the left-handed Benson scored on a driving scoop shot with his right hand.
Benson finished with 24 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter and five in overtime. Freshman Alex Barcello had 15 points off the bench; Connor MacDougall added 11 and Dan Kuiper had 10.
"I did not want to go home losing my final game … it was a great game, one of the best I’ve ever played in," Benson said. "Being able to persevere and come back the way we did was just so great."
Pinnacle’s Dorian Pickens had 41 points, including key baskets both late in the fourth quarter and in overtime, but missed three shots on the Pioneers’ final possession. The last was a fade away from just inside the top of the key at the buzzer that was off to the left.
Mountain View (2005-07) and Phoenix Union (1958-61) are the only other programs to win three straight big-school state championships on the boys’ side.
Desert Vista won the program’s first state title with a 53-37 win over Westview.
Desert Vista’s Kristine Anigwe (33) tries to get control of a rebound during Saturday’s Division I girls basketball state championship game against Westview.
Fifth-seeded Desert Vista dominated the middle two quarters to erase some early erratic play, as 6-foot-4 junior Kristine Anigwe took over the game to power a comeback from a 13-4 deficit.
Anigwe finished with 25 points on 11 of 15 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds. It wasnât just because she had four inches on the Knights’ post players. For the second straight game Anigwe played with a different purpose.
‘Itâs a determination to win,’ Anigwe said. ‘You have to play like every game is your last game and do whatever it takes to get it done.’
Desert Vista outscored the sixth-seeded Knights 39-11 over the second and third quarters to take control of the game.
Sophomore Michael Bibby nailed seven 3-pointers and had 27 points in leading Shadow Mountain to an 83-58 rout of Flagstaff.
Mike Bibby, the 1996 All-American at Shadow Mountain and 14-year NBA veteran, coached the Matadors because head coach Jerry Conner was unable to attend the game due to a death in the family.
With a sign on the bench acknowledging their missing coach, Shadow Mountain built a nine-point lead in the first quarter and the quickly grew to 21 midway through the second.
Carlos Johnson added 26 points and 11 rebounds, and JJ Rhymes had 17 points and seven rebounds.
The loss snapped an 18-game win streak for Flagstaff.
Seton Catholic turned a two-point halftime deficit into an eight-point lead as it shut out Cienega in the third quarter and held off the Bobcats for a 37-30 victory and the program’s fourth title in five years.
Seton Catholic’s Jennifer Wirth brings the ball upcourt during the Divison II girls basketball state championship game against Cienega on Saturday.
D-III girls: March 4, 11 a.m.; March 27, 10:30 a.m.
D-III boys: March 4, 1 p.m.; March 27, 10 p.m.
The top-seeded Sentinels suffocated the third-seeded Bobcats and didn’t give up the second-chance points that hurt them in the first half.
Cienega didn’t score in the second half until the 6:34 mark of the fourth quarter and did register its first second-half field goal for another 2:19.
Coach Karen Self asked her players during halftime if they wanted to win. They said they did.
"Then execute the game plan," Self responded.
The big third quarter set up Seton but didn’t put the game away. The Bobcats went on a 10-4 run once Kelaiah Dillard broke Cienega’s scoreless drought with three free throws, and clawed back to within two of the Sentinels.
But freshman LeeAnne Wirth scored on an inbound play with 1:20 left, and Barcello and Jennifer Wirth hit four free throws in the final minute to seal Self’s seventh state championship.
Self trails only Miner Webster for the most girls basketball state titles. Webster won six at Highland and two at Gilbert.
With Cory Kasperson leading the way, Valley Christian won the Division III state title Saturday with a complete 64-53 victory over Cortez. The win gave the Trojans their fifth state championship.
Kasperson had a game-high 24 points, hitting five 3-pointers, while Zach Wolf and T.J. Widner each had 12 in the win.
Second-seeded Valley Christian took control early, going on a 9-0 run to start the game and then, after Cortez had battled back to within two, regaining control with a 14-2 run. The Trojans took a 35-29 lead into the break, and although the Colts hung around, they never got closer than seven in the fourth quarter.
Ninth-seeded Cortez was led by 14 points from Davon MacBeth.
A perfect season ended with a hiccup, as previously undefeated Valley Christian couldn’t hit the shots it’d made every night for the previous three months, couldn’t contain Fountain Hills’ interior play and couldn’t get their bearings in a 51-36 loss.
Fountain Hills took advantage of the cold-shooting Trojans and used a 17-0 run in the second quarter to take control and snap Valley Christianâs 33-game win streak.
Valley Christian beat Fountain Hills twice during the regular season, including in the sectional final two weeks ago.
Brooke Yost scored 18 points to lead Fountain Hills. Natalie Stilwell added 15 points.
The East Valley Tribune contributed to this report.