Moss, defense bring back Corona to defeat Gilbert in Section II semifinals - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Moss, defense bring back Corona to defeat Gilbert in Section II semifinals

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Posted: Friday, February 10, 2012 10:52 pm

His Gilbert boys basketball team led 28-17 with two minutes left in the first half of the Division I, Section II semifinal game, but Tigers coach Jay Caserio knew No.1-seed Corona del Sol would make a run.

He just didn't plan on the Aztecs nearly doubling the Tigers output in the final 18 minutes, as Corona del Sol outscored Gilbert, 43-22, for a 60-50 win over the Tigers.

Corona advanced to the section championship game against Red Mountain.

"We went 2-of-14 (shooting) in that first half," Aztecs coach Sam Duane said. "We knew we had to keep our confidence, keep our composure, turn up the defense and the shots would start falling."

Winners of 25 straight games, including a one-point comeback victory against Dobson in their last game, the Aztecs turned the game's momentum.

But not with shot making. At least not initially.

Instead, it was hustle. Unbridled, sometimes verging on manic, energy.

Aztecs power forward Avery Moss was the madman leading the charge. Whether on his basket (or so it seemed), or the Tigers' rim, he found a way to get his hands when the basketball came off. Usually he rose well above the crowd around him, but on occasions he was out-positioned or when the ball bounced away, he seemed to find a way to get a hand on the ball. The extra possessions allowed the Aztecs shooters to warm up.

"(Moss) is the best offensive rebounder I've ever seen in my time coaching in Arizona," said Caserio, who's coached in the state for nearly a decade.

Moss did more than a Dennis Rodman impersonation (sans the histrionics). He allowed the Aztecs to extend their 1-3-1 zone defense deep into the Tigers' backcourt.

"People don't understand how well he moves for being 240 pounds," Duane said. "It's amazing."

On one occasion in the third quarter, Moss' lateral agility on the perimeter kept a long Tigers possession from entering the lane. After the shot was missed to the opposite side, Moss sprinted to the ball, lunging low to punch it out of a guards hand, and then raced around him, and tossed the ball with one-hand to a teammate while he fell out of bounds.

"It's all about the drive to get better," Moss said. "We want the championship, nothing else."

From the end of the second quarter, when the Aztecs trailed by 11, to the beginning of the third, Calaen Robinson scored nine of his 13 points. He also added an emphatic block off the backboard on what appeared to be an easy transition basket for Gilbert.

Aztecs small forward Casey Benson led the team with 16 points. Moss added 11, while deadly three-point shooter Brady Tennyson added four from outside for 12 points.

The Tigers dominated much of the first half behind the playmaking of ambidextrous point-forward Conner Helvig and the shot-making of Erik Crawford, who made four consecutive shots in the second quarter, three of which were either deep behind the arc or heavily contested.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]