Good luck seeing another Corona-Mtn. Pointe game anytime soon - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Good luck seeing another Corona-Mtn. Pointe game anytime soon

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Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at mheller@evtrib.com or (480) 898-6576.

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2013 12:26 pm | Updated: 1:44 pm, Sun Feb 17, 2013.

It's true we tend to better remember things that happened most recently, but it's unlikely anyone who witnessed Saturday night's 66-65 final in double overtime saw a better basketball game in the past several years than what Corona del Sol and Mountain Pointe took to two overtimes before the Aztecs won in fitting fashion for this night.

Plenty of kids, coaches and longtime administrators from both schools afterward affirmed such a statement wouldn't be absurd hyperbole.

It wasn't some grandiose display of Division I-college caliber talent lining the rosters - though there was plenty of skilled players. It wasn't as if other games (regular season or state tournament) haven't gone to even more overtimes. It wasn't even that polished a performance by either team. Turnovers and poor shooting percentages were problematic for both teams all night.

It was 6-6 after the first quarter.

This was going to be a better game than the earlier meetings this season. Mountain Pointe was a better team than a month or two months ago, especially when Jalen Brown re-joined after originally sitting out the first half of this season to focus on football.

Don't get Pride coach Aaron Windler started on the power rankings system, but suffice to say most followers knew Mountain Pointe was a quarterfinalist or semifinalist-caliber team clouded by a No. 16 seed as its moniker. Despite Corona having won both regular season matchups, both coaches saw this matchup coming once the brackets were revealed with this alignment.

The second half and overtimes created their own drama which unfolded better than anyone could try and script. But in addition to what both teams did down the stretch, it was how Casey Benson - who struggled most of the first half and played all 40 minutes - saved the day twice in five minutes (and it's hard to top that).

After Benson's three-point play to end regulation forced overtime, Windler wanted to play out the final few seconds of the first overtime. He of the perfectly plausible opinion that a tie game and second overtime is the worst-case scenario. And, despite Mountain Pointe's three-point lead, fouling Corona and putting them at the free throw line with the clock stopped "leads to too many things that can happen from there."

It's hard to make a compelling argument against Windler's philosophy, even though there's a reasonable case to be made the other way. Plus numbers and analytics don't necessarily translate well to revved-up teenagers in a raucous atmosphere with the season at stake. 

Sure enough, Benson hit a 3-pointer to single-handedly force a second overtime.

"I just let them go and they went in," Benson said. "They felt good coming off my hand."

"I asked him to come out (for a breather) a couple times and he said 'No,'" Duane said. "So when my assistants would say Casey needs a rest I'd conveniently go deaf."

It was how Mountain Pointe came back to begin each overtime after Benson's remarkable retorts. It was how the final hero's storyline was a kid known for his defense and "intangibles" who'd been chewed out by his coach for missing a dunk early in the game. Bryan Siefker's 3-pointer with eight seconds left in the second overtime was challenged late, but despite not scoring a point all night until the final seven seconds, he'd quietly done this out-of-nowhere thing before.

Mountain Pointe got what it wanted: making someone other than Benson beat them.

"If he missed I was fine with it," Duane said. "I wouldn't have thought twice if it doesn't go in."

There were two final "mini cherries" put on this Saturday sundae which pushed this game to the "epic" stage.

Outside the usual student-section cadences, there appeared to be little trash-talking on the floor. Emotions were rampant with each passing basket and minute off the clock after halftime, but no player grandstanded or got in another player's face. There were no egregiously hard fouls; nothing on the verge of physical extracurricular nonsense which is often the byproduct of schools so familiar with one another playing in one team's gym, with these high stakes as a backdrop.

The other came postgame. Thought it's a concept which long ago became cliched and overcooked it's lost any appeal or "cool" factor, Corona del Sol rushed the court when Mountain Pointe's Khari Holloway's final shot rimmed out at the buzzer. Given the game and circumstances we'll let it slide this time.

Several bleacher seats (they're quite old anyway) broke because of excessive weight during the students stampeded down to the floor, but that was a product of excessive weight being applied at the same time moreso than violence. There were no skirmishes, fights, anything of the sort while stunned Mountain Pointe players and fans were being enveloped and surrounded by Corona fans.

That credit belongs with both schools, its staff and administrations.

Duane noted there's a pretty good chance Monday's practice won't be real intensive, as the Aztecs have a quarterfinals matchup with No. 8 Goodyear Millennium on Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena.

What happens going forward in this tournament is a crapshoot, because Corona del Sol is like everyone else in that it can be beaten. Mountain Pointe showed everyone that it's possible even though it didn't happen.

The two-and-a-half hours in which this all unfolded, however, won't be duplicated again in these tournaments or any in the next few years.

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