Semifinal basketball games are starting to make Pinnacle sick to its collective stomach.
In 2011, Chaparral's shots and free throws in the waning seconds of the 5A Division II semifinals that sent a young Pinnacle squad home hungry to return.
The Pioneers did, but No. 6-seed Laveen Cesar Chavez did it to Pinnacle in 2012.
J.D. Reagan nailed a 25-footer with 11 seconds left in regulation that forced overtime, and the Champions were the better offensive team in overtime as they knocked off the No. 2-seed Pioneers, 62-58, in an entertaining Div. I semifinal on Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.
Cesar Chavez will play in its second title game in three years, having lost to Phoenix North in 2010.
Meanwhile, a sullen group of Pioneers left their locker room once again feeling empty.
"We played great all year," junior forward Drew Bender, who led the Pioneers with 23 points and was integral in bringing the team back from an early deficit. "I feel sorry for the seniors."
The Pioneers were on their way to a season-low in points (55 in a loss to Desert Vista) until overtime barely erased that, but they felt relatively happy with their shot selection.
"We did things right," Pinnacle coach Charlie Wilde said. "You'd think those shots would fall the way they usually did, but they didn't."
Pinnacle acknowledged that Chavez' quickness was a factor offensively, and the Pioneers were prevented from running the floor they've done so well this season.
They also knew Reagan was a handful, and he was more than that with five 3-pointers on the night (including the contested 25-footer), four points in overtime and 27 for the game.
"He made shot after shot after shot," Wilde said.
Trailing be eight after the first quarter, Pinnacle found its gear in spurts, enough to force a 26-26 tie at halftime, and, after a brief third-quarter lead, 41-41 going into the fourth.
Bender made four free throws in the final minute of regulation to give Pinnacle a 50-47 lead, but with 15 seconds left, he drove to the basket and lost the ball through contact which set up Regan's season-saving trey.
The Pioneers missed their first three shots in overtime while LJ Harman made two baskets inside for the Champions, and Pinnacle was in catch-up mode the rest of the way. Chavez made four free throws and successfully ran off clock in the final 30 seconds of overtime.
Cody McDavis added 11 points for the Pioneers. Dorian Pickens and Kevin Bowman each scored nine.
"I really thought this was like the Chaparral game (in last year's semifinals) where we started slow and played catch-up," Bender said. "Sometimes a night doesn't bounce your way and it happened to a lot of us. There's nothing you can do."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.