McClintock may have jumped out to a big lead early, but all visiting Tucson Sahuaro needed to come back was to get into a zone.
A zone defense, that is.
The third-seeded Chargers squandered an 11-point first-quarter lead and eventually battled back from a seven-point third-quarter deficit of their own to send their 4A Division I quarterfinal boys basketball game into overtime against the sixth-seeded Cougars.
But it was all Sahuaro in overtime, as the Cougars pulled away from McClintock in the extra frame to take a 72-63 victory with them into the state semifinals Wednesday against Glendale Apollo.
The win was just Sahuaro's second of the season against teams north of Tucson.
Both Sahuaro coach Dick McConnell and McClintock coach Brian Fleming agreed that the Cougars' ability to successfully execute their zone defense — slowing the game down and keeping McClintock (20-9) from using the athleticism of players like Xavier Lucas and Dahir Nasser — gave them the clear advantage.
"They started whittling away at (our lead) once they went to the zone," Fleming said. "I thought with our depth and the eight, nine guys we had out there, that we'd be able to wear them down. But they sat in that zone and slowed everything down."
Sahuaro (23-7) trailed by one at the half but took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter. McClintock bounced back, opening the quarter on an 9-2 run to tie it at 50.
"In the fourth quarter we squandered several offensive opportunities," McConnell said.
After the teams entered overtime tied at 58, Fleming said not getting position out of the blocks was the turning point in the game.
"It was huge, us not winning that tip," Fleming said of the Chargers' inability to gain an early lead in the extra period. "They went right down and got two."
Sahuaro opened the extra period with an 8-2 run. Cougars forward Malcolm Shephard had 16 rebounds and 11 points, and Kenny Lange had 18 points.
Ryan Golden had 15 points for the Chargers, while Lucas added 14. Nasser managed just five points.