The No. 4-seeded Hamilton Huskies were taken down by No. 13-seeded Chandler, 44-41, in one of the craziest finishes this year in Arizona high school basketball. The game came down to the final seconds, as a Chandler three with 1.5 seconds left, propelled the Wolves to victory.
Despite the disparity in rankings, it was clear from the jump these teams were more evenly matched than many expected. Hamilton quickly took the lead, but Chandler remained close throughout. The Huskies vaunted 3-2 zone gave the Wolves fits, and Hamilton seemed to be taking control.
Late in the second quarter Hamilton’s lead grew to its biggest of the night, and Chandler trailed 24-16 going in to halftime. The second half though was a different story, as the Wolves came out reenergized and raring to go.
They began making the three pointers they were missing in the first half, and locked up Hamilton on the other end. With 4:53 left in the fourth quarter, Chandler took its first lead since the early minutes of the first quarter.
The game remained extremely tight, as the teams traded buckets as time winded down. With twenty seconds left, Chandler had the ball with the scored tied at 39. Junior Vean Simon drove to the basket and banked home the layup, putting Chandler up by two.
After a Hamilton timeout, guard Rashad Smith hit a midrange jumper with about five seconds left to tie the game. Wolves coach Jonathon Rother opted not to call a timeout, and instead decided to let his kids play. In retrospect, that looks like a good call. Chandler quickly inbounded the ball and got it to junior Adrian Chandler on the left wing, who fired and connected on the game winning three with 1.5 seconds left.
“It was a good look,” said an excited Chandler. “My teammate gave me the ball, I went into my shot and I was thinking in my mind if you hit this its game. And yeah, I just kind of felt it.”
Chandler’s last second three capped off a comeback few saw coming based off the little success the Wolves had scoring the ball in the first half. One person who wasn’t surprised by the second half surge was coach Rother, who knew just how dangerous this team could be if everything clicked.
“They work hard, play together, and when things don’t go their way they don’t fold they just keep fighting,” said Rother.
Despite their incredibly victory, this Chandler team is not content with just one postseason victory. This team fully believes they have the talent to advance far in this tournament, and possibly take home some hardware.
“We’ve been preparing all year for moments like this,” said Chandler. “We’ve been putting the time in during practice and we’ve worked hard every day. Games like this were what we were thinking about in our mind. It was a close game, we grinded it out, and we were able to pull out the win.”
With the victory, Chandler advances to the second round of the playoffs and will face No. 5-seeded Mountain Pointe Pride on Friday. While once again the Wolves will be underdogs playing on the road, their coach is confident this team is something special.
“If we keep defending like that, sharing the ball, and keep playing for one another like we’ve done all season who knows what could happen,” said coach Rother. “We’ve stuck together, so as long as this group keeps doing what they’ve proven they can do all season, I like our chances