PRESCOTT VALLEY - Logan Fougnies took the literal crushing blow when a pass by Orme’s Metehan Akcam smashed into his face midway through the third quarter of the 1A boys basketball state title game on Saturday afternoon.
The Gilbert Christian team felt the metaphorical hit about a half hour later.
The Knights’ quest for a second consecutive championship came up short as Orme’s international starting five proved too talented in a 68-56 victory at Tim’s Toyota Center.
Gilbert Christian went undefeated last season and hadn’t lost to a 1A team this year, but met its match.
“We‘ve had a lot of adversity this year and our guys had come through it every (time),” Gilbert Christian coach Jim White said. “I just figured we’d do it again. I was kind of surprised we didn’t overcome…but boy, that’s an athletic team.”
The Knights (28-4) were within four points with 3:33 remaining when Roberto Reyes made one of two free throws, but Orme went on an 11-3 run the rest of the way to wrap up the win.
Gilbert Christian had trouble hitting its shots from outside as Orme turned up the defense late.
“We ran some sets in the second half, and I thought we were going to hit (the jump shots),” White said. “But we didn’t. And give them a lot of credit, because they did. This is a tough place to shoot it, and they did well.”
All five of Orme’s starters are from out of the country, but worked together well in the victory. Akcam led the way with 25 points and Theo Young added 23. All 68 points came from the starters. Michel Nzege was a defensive stopper on the interior, frustrating Gilbert Christian big man Connor Patterson and clogging up the middle when the Knights penetrated.
The officiating crew also allowed more contact in the paint than usual.
“Our big (Patterson) is used to being at the line a lot,” White said. “I’m not sure how many times he was, but it wasn’t as many as we thought it would be. It was just a little different tempo than we were used to.”
A smooth season hit a bump for Gilbert Christian on Jan. 10, when coach Steve Currier was fired.
The Knights were 12-0 since White took over, but came up a game short.
“I think we grew as a team through the adversity,” White said. “We didn’t get the ultimate goal… but it was still a special high school experience (making the title game).”
Gilbert Christian will return four starters next season and sixth man Roberto Reyes as it moves up to Division III next season.
Brandon Palacio led the team with 14 points and Sam Jones added 12.