A final shot missed but dreams still came true at Pinnacle - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

A final shot missed but dreams still came true at Pinnacle

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Posted: Saturday, February 23, 2013 10:59 pm | Updated: 1:32 am, Sun Feb 24, 2013.

He pulled his jersey over his head in disgust before putting it back on. Eight painful seconds later, a captivating Division I boys basketball championship game was over and Pinnacle was left holding a runner-up trophy and their heads buried in their arms on the bench, Drew Bender pulled his jersey off for the last time.

Eight seconds prior, it was Bender's contested 20-footer which could have tied the score, forced Corona del Sol into a final shot and possibly overtime. Pinnacle's girls had already lost earlier Saturday to a dynasty. Pinnacle's boys could have stopped Corona's in the making.

Bender - who wasn't supposed to play in these playoffs after he suffered an ankle injury a couple days before the tournament's first-round games and tweeted he'd be out a few weeks. Heavily taped, he'd grimaced a few times during these playoffs, and now his recovery will take a few weeks longer for the past two weeks' wear and tear.

The gain would have been worth the pain, if the shot hadn't rolled around the entire rim and popped out.

Another "could have," a haunting, unintentional re-enactment of last year, when Pinnacle lost a lead late in its semifinal game against Laveen Cesar Chavez and Bender's last-second shot also bounced off.

This time, after a second consecutive heartbreak and several teammates inconsolable walking to the locker room, they re-emerged 20 minutes later for the long walk through Jobing.com Arena's tunnel and toward the bus.

Bender emerged and tried to put on a brave face in the moments after a crushing defeat.

"I'm trying to be tough and keep it together for us," he said, "but I'm hurting.

"It was like, 'Why me?'" he said of his reaction to the final shot taken between the sensational senior trio of him, Dorian Pickens and Trey Ingram. "For the past three years it's come down to those and I don't know why. I want that shot. I've taken that shot 40 times and I'll take it another 40 times. I might make the next 10 or miss the next 10 but I'll take those shots."

Both Pinnacle basketball programs know about heartbreak. The girls left with a runner-up trophy for a fifth time in seven years and, obviously, the boys endings in each of the past two seasons.

For the boys, however, the joyous season and bitter ending was shared by those beyond the bench. Four-year team manager Brandon Wechsler's story of being bounded by a wheelchair and living with Duchenne muscular dystrophy has been widely explored, especially when he was allowed to play against Sandra Day O'Connor in late January to fulfill a dream.

The constantly happy-go-lucky 18-year-old was among the inconsolable after Saturday's loss, and he recently found company along the Pioneers' bench. A week ago, 13-year-old Tyler Hallsey entered the Pinnacle players' lives. A family friend of Pioneers' reserve Kenny McCormick, Hallsey was recently diagnosed with cancer.

"Everyone wants to win these game and it hurts not to the way it's gone the past couple times, but this team and guys like Drew and (Pickens) are winners because of what they've done for other people," coach Charlie Wilde said. 

Pinnacle was miffed about a couple foul calls, a few missed shots and noted Corona's excellent second-half execution, but Wilde and his kids struggled to make sense of how the Pioneers championship hopes crashed.

Others, however, were buoyed. Beyond Bender's final miss, Trey Ingram's shooting struggles (while also trying to stop Corona's Casey Benson, which rarely goes well for any defense) and a stretch-run offensive drought, the second-place team won't forget this run. Moreso by those who didn't play.

"I know they look up to us, but we look to them. The way they fight is special," Bender said. "What we did as people will overshadow what we did in basketball. We turned ourselves into a Make-a-Wish foundation."

Pinnacle's didn't come true, but the same can't be said for a few people whose only other wish would be to walk.

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