It hasn’t been the smoothest postseason ride for the top-seeded Corona del Sol boys basketball team.
The Aztecs needed double overtime to beat Mountain Pointe in the second round, and looked out of sorts for much of Tuesday’s quarterfinal matchup with No. 8 Goodyear Millennium.
Once again, though, Corona made plays when it counted and advanced to the Division I state semifinals with a 47-46 victory at Wells Fargo Arena.
The Aztecs are now two victories away from repeating as state champions.
“That’s the thing about our guys,” Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane said. “They find a way to win.”
Adam Gleave was the hero.
He hit three of four free throws in the final 33 seconds and blocked a potential tying lay-up by Millennium’s Jordan Martin with under 25 seconds to go.
“I saw that he was a little bit smaller than me,” Gleave said. “He got by me, but I tried to compensate and blocked his shot.”
Martin hit a 3-pointer with 9.7 seconds remaining to cut the deficit to one point, and Casey Benson pushed it back to a three-point advantage with a pair of free throws.
Martin set up for a game-tying 3-pointer with five seconds left, but his knee buckled and he fell to the floor for a traveling call. Benson hit a free throw with 4.8 seconds remaining to clinch the win, as Martin’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was meaningless.
The Aztecs struggled shooting from the outside and Millennium forward Elston Jones controlled the paint. Jones finished with 11 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
Corona del Sol only scored 17 points in the first half but stayed in it with strong defense.
“It was a stressful game,” Gleave said. “It’s different being in the arena with the depth perception. But it’s nothing we can’t handle.”
Neither team led by more than six points throughout the contest.
Benson shot just 4-of-17 from the field but hit eight important free throws for 16 points. Cassius Peat added seven points and seven rebounds. Martin had a game-high 18 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter.
Corona del Sol will play No. 5 Desert Mountain on Thursday at 7:45 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena.
“I’ll take two more (close games),” Duane said. “My heart can take it. If this is what it takes, I’ll take it.”
Millennium - 10 10 11 15 -- 46
Corona del Sol - 8 9 13 17 -- 47
Millennium - Martin 18, Jones 11, Franklin 10, Jackson 6, Jones 1.
Corona del Sol - Benson 16, Peat 7, Gleave 7, Siefker 6, Givens 6, Tennyson 5.