Avery Moss woke up nervous on Saturday morning. The final competitive basketball game of his life was for the Division I state championship.
At some point, it turned to anxiety, and if this was it for the Moss-Andrus Peat-Calaen Robinson trio who’ve been together in some fashion since sixth grade, well, then Moss was going to make a party of it.
He turned out to be the life of Corona del Sol’s on-court party in the Aztecs’ 66-53 win against Laveen Cesar Chavez on Saturday night that gave Corona del Sol its first basketball state championship since 1994.
Moss’ 18 points, 21 rebounds (eight offensive rebounds) and four blocked shots ended this championship season with a trophy.
"Oh my God, he was dominant," Corona coach Sam Duane Jr. said.
It began with a whimper when, shortly after football season, he missed 10 games because of a shoulder injury suffered during basketball practice.
In between, there was a football recruiting crush, but in late-January he chose to play defensive end at Nebraska next fall, it marked the end of a stressful process and, for him, a sad realization that his first love of basketball was going to end shortly.
So he closed this chapter in style. He had 10 points and 13 rebounds by halftime, and made an acrobatic put back in traffic that bounced off the top of the backboard, around the rim and went in during the third quarter.
“I knew then we had that little bit of luck on our side,” he said with a wide grin.
A few minutes later, he blocked a shot that led to Robinson’s behind-the-back pass for a layup in transition to make it 40-25 in favor of the Aztecs.
He routinely leaped beyond everyone else, but wouldn’t share his vertical-jump secrets afterward – and took the ball away from Chavez players in mid-air a couple times. He and Peat knew a mismatch was there to taken advantage of given Cesar Chavez lost to Basha earlier in the season because of the Bears’ frontcourt, and the Aztecs felt they had a better one than Basha.
The duo combined for 31 rebounds. Chavez had 32 as a team.
The lead remained in double digits through the second half, so he could afford to laugh when he missed a second dunk of the night late in the third quarter. The miss still ripped off part of the net, and he’d already been heckled by his teammates before the Aztecs made it to the winning locker room.
"Absolutely I did," Duane Jr. said.
"I missed, like, two dunks all year, and I did that in my last game?” Moss said. "Yeah, I heard about it."
"I couldn’t say anything," Peat said. "I missed one too, and he gets more than me."
Now it’s back to football for Moss, not his first true love but the best chance at excelling in college and beyond.
"It’s crazy to think this is over now, but this was the best to way to end it," said Peat, who’s taking the same route at Stanford next year. "It’s an experience we’ll take the rest of our lives."
His muscular, high-flying bulldog of a two-sport teammate couldn’t agree more, and he played like it.
"We went out with a bang," Moss said. "That’s for sure."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.