Corona alum returns to Arizona for Final Four with Oregon Men’s Basketball


Written by Jake Pyatt, Sports Editor

Three short years ago, Casey Benson led Corona del Sol to a thrilling victory to win the third consecutive state championships for the Aztecs. Now, as a junior at the University of Oregon, the Ducks are returning to play right across the street from where Benson made a game winning layup with 27 seconds left in overtime.

Benson was the first freshman in the school’s history to make the varsity basketball team. On all basketball teams, guard play can set your squad against the rest. Benson was the No. 1 guy when the Aztecs won three straight championships.

“In my time at Corona, the biggest thing I took away was just how much fun I had with some of my closest friends,” Benson said. “We won three state championships and every one of them was a blast to be a part of. Also, the tradition of winning prepared me for the next stage. Sometimes you can lose sight of that when you get to the next level and so whenever I look back at my time there, it always brings joy.”

In Eugene now, Benson has played a big role for the Ducks since arriving on campus.

“I’ve grown a lot both as a player and as a person in my college career so far,” Benson said. “Having gone through times of adversity has taught me how to continue to fight and endure and also helped me in basketball.”

Former head coach of the Aztecs and current Perry head coach Sam Duane Jr. knew Benson would go onto to do great things on the hardwood.

“Casey was tremendous to coach,” Duane said. “He had a great work ethic, bought into his role and did whatever it took to win. Casey set the tone for the culture of our championship teams with his work ethic and drive to win and team-first approach. Just like he is doing at Oregon.”

Benson is still in constant contact with Duane as the distance has not slowed their communications.

“Playing for coach Duane was awesome,” Benson said. “He helped prepare me to play college basketball and there are no other coaches like him. He would be an exceptional college coach if he ever decided to leave the high school game. We have great memories in my four years at Corona and we still talk on a regular basis.”

Current Corona senior Alex Barcello learned a lot from Benson in their one championship season together.

“I took away how to be an overall leader because he was always being the coach on the floor,” Barcello said. “He was very close with coach Duane and that translated on and off the court. He was always making sure his guys were on the same page.”

Even here at Corona today, most average Aztec fans will know exactly who Benson is. They knew the precedent of current success was all started by Benson.

Current Head Coach for the Aztecs Neil MacDonald was an assistant coach for Benson only one season, but he knows how big of an impact Benson had on Corona.

“Casey is certainly a huge part of Corona history and played a major role in keeping tradition alive and raising the bar for others,” MacDonald said.

After making the Elite Eight last season, MacDonald, who was an assistant coach to Benson his senior season at Corona, is glad Benson and the Ducks were able to take the next step to reach Glendale.

“It is amazing to see, especially after he came so close last year,” MacDonald said. “Casey is such a great person and exactly the type of person you want to see succeed. He definitely should be familiar with the area.”

Benson also sees this opportunity to play for the title in his hometown fitting.

“You couldn’t have written it any better,” Benson said. “To be able to play in the final four in my home state right next to where we won three state championships is a blessing. All I can say is that I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity and I’m going to soak up and enjoy every minute of it.”