Gilbert Christian upsets Thatcher Eagles for championship title

Anton Wero/NHO<br>
A Thatcher Eagle tries tp dunk the ball against two Holbrook defenders in the semi-final game. Thatcher was defeated in the finals by Gilbert Christian.

Anton Wero/NHO<br> A Thatcher Eagle tries tp dunk the ball against two Holbrook defenders in the semi-final game. Thatcher was defeated in the finals by Gilbert Christian.

GLENDALE, Ariz. - The Snowflake Lobos and the Holbrook Roadrunners both lost their games to eventual champion Gilbert Christian and runners-up Thatcher in the Division III Arizona State Championship Tournament at Glendale on Friday.

The Thatcher Eagles (30-3) halted the Holbrook Roadrunners'(32-4) run in quest of another state championship, during the semi-finals of the Division III 2012 Arizona Boys State Basketball Championships, the "February Frenzy," at the

Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Arizona by a score of 78-67, in two overtimes for the semi-finals.

"We said we are gonna to win, we knew it was gonna to be a uphill battle, we thought if we hold Jackson (Jalen) and Epps (Torriam) down, we had an excellent chance to win," said Chris Cook head coach of the Thatcher Eagles, "we slowed them down pretty well, we made sure they didn't have any open looks, we kept their slashing to the basket down, we thought we did an outstanding job, especially in the first half,"

The Thatcher Eagles' Mitchell Goodman was fouled while driving the lane and one at the line for an early 3-0 lead, the Roadrunners answered with a bucket by Rashuan Baldwin. They exchanged buckets in the first period, then the Eagles hit on three treys, one by Goodman and two by Koby Alva, an 9-0 run that ended the first period scoring, leading 14-6.

Holbrook's Epps was fouled slicing to the bucket and hit both free throws, which was immediately answered by the Eagles when Goodman found Nick Orr in the paint, the Roadrunners' Baldwin was fouled while attempting to hit the money ball, hitting on two of three free throws, cutting the lead to 10-6 in favor of the Eagles. The Eagles then went on a 13 to 8 run, ending the half with a twelve point lead, 30-18.

"We dug ourselves a hole in the first half, got behind," said Raul Mendoza Holbrook Roadrunners head coach. The Roadrunners hit 2 of 18 from beyond the arc and 3 of 14 from the field, a 15.6 percent shooting for the half, while the Eagles were hitting 4 of 13 treys and 8 of 19 from the field, a 37.5 percent shooting for the first half.

Sensing a comeback, the crowd on their feet, the Roadrunners continued to push the pace, with the trio of Epps, Jackson and Baldwin working the paint for buckets, getting fouled and mounting points from the charity strip. Dakota Lester hit his second three pointer of the game, closing the gap to within five points, 57-52, with a little over a minute remaining in the game. Bryson Keoni scored on a driving lay in and hit the game tying trey, ending the regulation period tied at 57 all, sending the near capacity crowd into frenzy.

In the first overtime period, Keoni again drove the paint, scoring with a short jumper and the Eagles' Goodman was fouled in the paint as well and scored on two free throws, the game remained tied 59 all. Thatcher Eagles scored again on a free throw by Goodman and Eric Angel's steal of a pass led to another score, with 1:30 left, followed by ORR's bucket that gave the lead to the Eagles with seconds left to play, 64-61. Again, Keoni spoiled the Eagles' hopes of a win, hitting his third three pointer of the game, leading to another overtime period, 64-64.

The second overtime period belonged to the Thatcher Eagles, as they outscored the Holbrook Roadrunners 14 to 3, ending the Roadrunners' road to another state championship, winning 78 to 67.

"They (Roadrunners) made a great run down the stretch, it went back and forth and they tied it up," Thatcher Eagles head coach Chris Cook said after the game. "They came back, it was a heck of a third and fourth quarter, with a team like that - they (Roadrunners) did a good job, it was hard to hold them, we got lucky, we the shot the ball well and rebounded well - it was fun."

"We tried to come back and it (the first half) took too much outta of us," said Holbrook Roadrunners head coach Raul Mendoza, "we were down 16 points at one point and we tied it up in the end - were proud of the kids, they played well all year and we want to thank the fans for all their support."

Torriam Epps led the Holbrook Roadrunners with 18 points, followed by Bryson Keoni with 15 and Ryan Baldonado contributed 13 points. Mitchell Goodman had a game high 25 points, Koby Alva added 22 points for the Thatcher Eagles.

Gilbert Christian won the state championship on Saturday with a 62-42 win over Thatcher. The Knights were 27-4 for the season.

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