Corona hoops wins state championship
Preslie Hirsch, Editor-in-Chief
February 25, 2012
Filed under Top Stories
The Aztecs lived up to expectations and won the Division 1 state championship tonight against the Cesar Chavez Champions, 66-53.
“It doesn’t feel real,” senior Calaen Robinson said. “When we won I just looked over there (to the student section).”
It’s the fifth basketball championship in school history, the first for Head Coach Sam Duane. The other four came under the helm of Duane’s father, Sammy Duane Sr., the last coming in 1994.
Duane admitted he never thought the team would go undefeated, but he said he felt confident going into the title game.<!– more –>
“I’ll be honest with you, I felt really good going into this game,” Duane said. “I got a great feeling from the guys. I told the guys enjoy this, and play free and easy. I really thought the guys did that.”
The season was dedicated for former assistant JV coach Troy Gray, who passed away before the season.
“I know the guys wanted to win for him,” Duane said.
Sophomore Casey Benson, who led the Aztecs with 22 points, was a key player in tonight’s match.
“You forget he’s a sophomore,” Duane said. “I could tell early on he was feeling good.”
The first cheer out of the stands was “let’s go Aztecs” as the game kicked off and senior Avery Moss got the tip off. Benson put the first points on the board, while Robinson successfully made the first 3-pointer shortly after. Within the first quarter, Benson scores another 3-pointer accompanied by one from junior Bryan Siefker. The score was 16-11 Corona.
In the second quarter junior Braden Tennyson and senior Elijah Hempstead came off the bench. Moss was fouled on back-to-back trips down the court, making only one free throw each time. Benson played with a lot of emotion, and Robinson was loud and quick on his feet. The buzzer sounded for half time, and Corona was up by 14 points, 34-20.
Cesar Chavez got the ball to start the second half. Robinson and Moss both missed dunks in the second half. The Aztecs were weak on free throws in the first half and didn’t improve as Robinson missed two within the first few minutes of the third quarter. The Aztecs were up 42-25 halfway through the third quarter.
Though the Aztecs struggled to put points on the board as Robinson turned over the ball with a bad pass intended for Benson and Moss missed a dunk, the Aztecs held onto a commanding lead.
Freshman Cassius Peat came off the bench for the Aztecs in the fourth quarter. Duane remained intense and was seen clapping encouragingly to Robinson. Corona was up 60-41 with four minutes left in the game.
With a little over two minutes left in the game, Corona led by 16 and the student section began to shout “We’re No. 1.”
The Corona boys basketball team was undefeated in the regular season record and was ranked No. 39 nationally by ESPN. The Aztecs won by only three points in the nail-biting match against Desert Vista in the semifinals, putting them in their position tonight for a shot at the state title against Cesar Chavez.
At the beginning of the game that was running about an hour past schedule, the lights shut off, spotlights ran over the thousands of seats and the Division 1 state championship trophy was at center court.
Duane’s dad was in the front row, and when asked about him, Duane said with tears in his eyes “he is so supportive.” He also commented on how his dad had won championship games before saying, ”it’s my time.”
The Aztecs will ride the bus home with a the state championship title.