Where’s 6A when you need it?
The Phoenix North boys basketball team proved on Wednesday it had no 5A equal in either division, defeating Laveen Cesar Chavez 71-66 in the 5A-I state championship game at Wells Fargo Arena.
Last year, the Mustangs captured the 5A-II crown by beating Tucson Ironwood Ridge in the title game, then moved up a classification for this school year. With four starters returning North was a preseason favorite, and while it entered as the No. 4 seed, the Mustangs left no doubt which team stands atop the mountain.
North is the first team in Arizona history to win 5A-I and 5A-II boys basketball titles.
“That was our goal the whole year,” forward Alan Williams said.
The game was close throughout, as neither club opened up more than a six-point lead through three quarters.
North’s lead was 61-60 with 2:23 remaining, but a bucket by Daniel Bejarano, a three-point play by Williams and two free throws by James Tolman pushed the lead to eight with 1:12 to play.
Cesar Chavez was forced to foul down the stretch and could not get any closer than five points.
Williams did not score in the first half but had 17 after intermission to lead the Mustangs to the title.
“I told Alan we’re going to need him, no matter what,” Bejarano said. “And that’s what happened.”
Bejarano, who has committed to Arizona, had a cold shooting night but finished with a team-high 19 points and added 11 rebounds.
Brandon Brown led Cesar Chavez with 20 points, including several dazzling drives to the hoop. Bejarano was assigned the task of guarding him.
“I did the best I could,” he said.
The four senior starters for North finished their careers with quite a haul — two state championships and four final four appearances.
Bejarano was the catalyst of the impressive stint, but like on Wednesday when Williams had 17 second-half points and Robert Arvizu had 13 in the first half, other players pitched in.
“We’re a family,” Bejarano said. “I don’t really need to score that (many) points. I have a whole team.”