Just four years ago, Basha was six games under .500 and Mike Grothaus was a first-year coach.
A lot has changed.
Grothaus has a little more gray hair, the program is now nationally ranked and the freshmen from Grothaus’ first season back in 2014 are now seniors getting ready to be fitted for state championship rings.
The second-seeded Bears beat No. 1 Corona del Sol 75-65 on Tuesday at Grand Canyon University Arena to win the program’s first state championship and school’s first boys state title of any kind.
“We knew that freshmen class was special, and you can see why. If you track their entire four-year career, they don’t lose much,” Grothaus said. “They are tough competitors, and every single thing they do, they complete.”
The Bears (31-1) completed the job against a program that has been to the championship game five times in the last six and are led by two of the state’s top prospects in Alex Barcello (25 points, 8 rebounds) and Saben Lee (19 points, 8 rebounds).
Basha countered with the best defense in the state along with two dandy players of its own in Gabe McGlothan (21 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks) and Terrell Brown (23 points, 3 three-pointers, four blocks, three assists).
“That’s the best defensive team we’ve seen all year, and we knew that coming in,” Corona del Sol coach Neil MacDonald said. “We didn’t just miss shots, they forced it. The kids played their butts off and did everything they could to win it.”
McGlothan was the big presence inside early while Barcello (18 at the half) dominated with shots from all over the floor to keep the game tight.
Then, Terrell Brown took over.
The senior guard scored 11 straight points to take Basha from down 28-26 to leading 37-28 in the second quarter.
“Those three threes hurt us,” MacDonald said. “Give him credit. He knocked down three tough shots. We had to get out of that hole.”
It was quite the display, and it held up despite Basha going scoreless for the first half of the third quarter, only to have McGlothan take over again with a dunk and two free throws for a 46-40 lead after three.
Coleson Struhs opened the fourth with a three-pointer for the Bears, and Corona (26-4) was in a trail position the remainder of the game as Nico Daal had two three-pointers of his own. Austin Picarello made 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
“We talked as sophomores about winning a state title,” said McGlothan, who is headed to Army next year. “It’s something we knew we’d be able to do by our senior year. Coach instilled that into us, and here we are.”
Corona knows a little something about winning state titles as the Aztecs won four straight before from 2012-2015, with Barcello being a key cog in the final two titles.
They made it back this year, but came up just a bit short.
“They are good team and play well on defense,” Barcello said. “We fought and I wouldn’t change my team one bit. I had their backs and they had mine.”
The Bears had similar sentiments about their squad, with the difference being they were the ones cutting down the nets at the end of the game.
“Amazing. Special. Blessed to be part of this group,” Grothaus said. “Amazing coaching staff and administration. Student section was great. It’s unbelievable.
– Contact Jason Skoda at 480-898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JasonPSkoda.