Apparently, the Valley Christian High School Trojans are getting winning 2A state boys basketball titles down pat.
A year ago when the Trojans won the first state basketball title in school history, they were presented with paper crowns with magic marker writing on the front by their cheerleaders. Soon after the crowns hit the sweaty foreheads of the celebrating Trojans, ink dribbled down the players' faces.
The Trojans' faces were ink free as they celebrated Saturday wearing crowns again after they whipped Thatcher, 58-29, at America West Arena to capture their second straight state title.
"You remember that?" said senior forward Andrew Majesty, who scored 11 points in the championship for the Trojans. "They kept the ink off (the front)."
The Trojans (28-2) did a good job of keeping Thatcher (27-9) off the scoreboard. So well, in fact, that they bettered by a point the margin of victory they posted last year in beating Scottsdale Christian in the final.
"We just stepped it up defensively," said Valley Christian coach Greg Haagsma. "We made it tough for them to get easy looks. If they didn't get offensive rebounds, we felt we were going to be able to win the ball game. We limited them to one shot and a tough one at that a lot of times."
It wasn't much of a game. The Trojans had a size advantage with the 6-foot-4 Majesty and 6-8 center Tim Kruge, who led all scorers with 15 points. They rolled to a 9-2 first-quarter lead and were up 31-12 at halftime.
"This senior group, I think they have lost six games in four years at whatever level they were playing," Haagsma said. "We gave them four or five points that they had to accomplish before the game. They had to rebound, and we dominated the glass. We had to be patient and execute. We hit our post guys, and we just kept going back to them. It was just a great team effort."
What was very evident about the Trojans was their business-like approach to the championship.
"We were more focused," said Kruge, who admitted he has no idea where he will play next season. "Last year, we were kind of like deer in the headlights. We had never been here. This year, we knew what it was about. We knew what we had to do."
Moments after the final buzzer sounded in last year's title game, Trojans guard Paul Hardiman leaped onto the scorers table and did a little dance. Hardiman stayed on the court Saturday.
"They tanked me," he said. "My athletic director said, 'Don't do anything stupid, it's on TV.' They caged me like Dennis Rodman today."
With Kruge, Majesty and Hardiman all seniors, Haagsma understood Saturday was not the time for the Trojans to strut too much.
"I was really excited last year," Haagsma said. "This year, I'm just trying to keep our kids in control a little bit. It's a great feeling to win the state championship, but I want to be gracious winners, too.
"We have to rebuild after this, so I want people to remember us for being gracious when they play us again in the future."