As hot as Larry Lewis and Arcadia were in its first two state tournament games, that’s how cold things became in the Division II boys basketball state tournament semifinal on Thursday.
No. 4-seeded Peoria held Lewis – who averaged 40 points in those two tourney games – to 19 points on 6-of-16 shooting and knocked out the No. 1 Titans, 61-45, at Grand Canyon University.
Peoria (25-3) will play Tucson Amphitheater, which beat Glendale Raymond Kellis 65-62 in overtime earlier Thursday at Grand Canyon. The Division II final is Saturday at noon at Jobing.com Arena.
Arcadia coach Luke Neibling didn’t have an answer for what happened to his team.
“It’s hard to figure out why we were missing so many easy looks,” Neibling said. “In a game like that, with a team as good as Peoria, if you give them chances like that to convert off missed layups and easy buckets, it’s a back breaker and we didn’t get the job done.”
Despite 31 percent shooting and generally never getting in an offensive rhythm, the Titans pulled themselves to within one possession in the final four minutes.
Down by 11, Lewis and Terrol Wilson tried to create some chances and chipped away at the lead. After a block on the Peoria end, Lewis got the loose ball and went the distance for a layup to get Arcadia within 43-40 with 3:54 left.
However, Peoria’s Goch Ajak hit a 3-pointer and then intercepted a bad pass on a defensive switch as Arcadia was bringing the ball up. His easy dunk to give Peoria an eight-point advantage.
Arcadia (24-7) never got closer than seven the rest of the way.
“Talk about a back breaker,” Neibling said. “We worked so hard to get back in the game, our guys were playing their tails off, to get that close to making it a game, it might have broken their spirits a little bit.”
Arcadia came out sluggish and it didn’t get much better in the second quarter.
Peoria ended the first quarter on a 9-0 run to take a 19-9 lead after one period. Then the Titans missed their first eight shots and got in a 22-9 hole in the second.
Arcadia stepped it up a bit in the third but couldn’t gain any ground, missing five free throws and failing to take advantage of Peoria getting cold.
Lewis scored 38 and 42 in wins over Flagstaff and Tucson Salpointe in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, respectively.
But on Thursday, Lewis missed layups and seemed short on jumpers, with Peoria’s Lawrence Pierce hounding him much of the night.
“Lawrence is a big-time player,” said Dewayne Russell, who led the Panthers with 23 points and five assists. “Not only is he scoring, he’s locking down the other team’s best player. Without him, I don’t know if anything is possible.”
But playing in the third different gym in as many state tournament games, Lewis and his teammates seemed to never quite get the hang of Grand Canyon University's new gym. The Titans missed long shots and layups and couldn’t get any offensive rhythm.
Chris Thompson had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Arcadia and Andrew Naderer had 10 points.
“They did a really good job on guarding Larry, playing real physical basketball with him," Neibling said. "He did his best. I think it was just one of those nights. He’s had such a great tournament, and obviously a great season, every now and again it’s just not your night.”