Miss a beat, fall behind by a step, and it's goodnight game.
No. 1 Corona del Sol's boys basketball team has done that to all but one opponent its faced this year, and though No. 9 Mountain View was on a roll later in the season and playing well, the Aztecs, were, well, a No. 1 seed and dominant program for what's now the better part of three years. And played like it in a 71-54 win over the Toros in the Division I quarterfinals on Thursday night.
Lost in the locker room amid the night's frustration - at least immediately afterward - was a Mountain View team which won 21 games behind a top-notch big man in Payton Dastrup, and emerging scorers in Austin Denham and Andy Sessions.
The Toros were in trouble from the start, as Corona's athleticism, defense against Dastrup - who was held to 12 points by Corona big man Connor MacDougall - and ability to outrun Mountain View in transition put the Toros behind the curve quickly, and couldn't catch up.
"They feel like this game defined their season and I told them you can't let them do that," said Mountain View coach Gary Ernst, stemming from the belief from their coach came mostly because the Toros won 24 games, and soundly won at a hostile Highland gym in the second round to reach the quarterfinals.
But Corona (31-1) was a different animal, and the Toros knew that having played them to within eight points in a 76-68 loss to Corona on New Year's Eve in the VisitMesa.com tournament.
This time, it was something of a different Corona crew which ended the Toros' season. Russ Davis scored 16 points, Jarrett Givens scored 12, and Dane Kuiper and MacDougall each added 11. The Aztecs routinely beat the Toros down the floor in the first half for transition baskets which often negated whatever the Toros could muster in their half-court sets.
"Our transition and decision-making was horrible late in the first quarter and early second quarter," Ernst said. "... We'd make a basket and five seconds later they had a layup or free throws. If you make a mistake they make you pay."
MacDougall's size and strength proved a good matchup for Corona against Dastrup, who didn't make a field goal until midway through the second quarter.
Denham led Mountain View with 21 points and Sessions added 10, but the Toros were behind by double digits for most of the final three quarters.
Asked how a team remaining in the tournament can beat Corona del Sol (Perry, which plays the Aztecs on Friday night, Dobson or Pinnacle), Ernst briefly shook his head.
"I'm not really sure," he said. "It's going to be hard. They have a lot of different guys who can come up big on any night."
No. 1 Corona del Sol 71, No. 9 Mountain View 54
MV 7 11 17 18 -- 54
CDS 18 16 17 20 -- 71
MV: Austin Denham 21, Andy Sessions 10, Josh Bribiescas 6, Luke Shill 4, Payton Dastrup 12
CDS: Cassius Peat 2, Dane Kuiper 11, Casey Benson 10, Alex Barcello 6, Jarrett Givens 12, Vance Arnold 2, Russ Davis 16, Connor MacDougall 11
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.