Hamilton had to go the distance to earn its first state boys volleyball title.
“It feels like everything that you trained for, all the 1,000 hours of practice, all 365 days a year, have all come to this,” said hitter Arian Bunthanom. “It’s all so worth it.”
The Huskies (36-9) needed five sets to beat Desert Vista in the quarterfinal on Tuesday and Mountain View in the semifinal on Thursday. In fact they were a point from being eliminated on Tuesday.
“I was very concerned about that,” Hamilton coach Jeff Bader said. “Mentally we were right there, but we were concerned playing those two fivers, that we would run out of gas. But the adrenaline kicked in and they were on their way.”
In a see-saw battle, Hamilton edged No. 2 Phoenix Brophy Prep 3-2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 19-25, 15-12), on Saturday night at Mesquite in its first appearance in the big school state boys volleyball championship.
Ironically, the Broncos’ dominating hitter, Andrew Lincoln, was called for a lift on a pass for the final point.
The uncharacteristic error ending an another otherwise amazing night for the 6-foot-7 Brigham Young-bound hitter. Lincoln had 30 kills and several assists late for Brophy (43-3), which had lost just two sets since April 17 coming into the night.
And although the Huskies were the top seed and won the first game, Saturday’s victory still felt a bit like an upset.
“But it’s really just a number, it doesn’t mean anything,” said setter Scottie Weist said of being seeded No. 1. “It matters what you do on the court, not what the stats are. We had a lot of high hopes and we knew if we could stick together and play as a team the whole time, no heads down.”
Brophy coach Tony Oldani said he knew some observers believed his team should have been the top seed.
“It’s 1a and 1b, their team play is second to nobody,” Oldani said. “You have to fight for every single point, the fact that we got close is huge. They are an unbelievable team.”
Hamilton jumped on Brophy early.
The Huskies never led by more than four in the first set but got the momentum, only to see the Broncos bounce back in the second frame and then the teams trading wins in games three and four.
The final set was predictable. Neither team could get a run going.
When Hamilton scored back-to-back points, Brophy setter Cole Herrmann found Austin Inglett for a kill to get the serve back. When Brophy got a pair of points to take a 9-8 lead, Wiest found Richard Reid (22 kills) to tie it up again.
In the final minutes, Lincoln got his 29th kill of the night, giving Brophy an 11-10 lead.
But Sam Haggard (22 kills, 14 digs) put the ball away to a start a three-point swing.
Weist got a kill and then fed George Gilliam (7 kills) to put Hamilton up 13-11. Lincoln got one back but Gilliam blocked Brophy’s Adam Randolph to set up championship point. With some confusion, Bader called a timeout. Weist served and when Brophy made its defensive miscue, the celebration began.
“During those final points, the only thing you think about is the team, what happens in the game doesn’t really matter,” said Bunthanom (13 kills). “You have come this far, you play your game and that’s it. That’s all anyone can ask for.”
Weist, a senior, even had a little message for the teams to follow after winning the school’s first boys volleyball title.
“It feels amazing but I know it is not going to be the last one either,” he said.
* Bravo is a Mesa-based freelancer.