Corona came out unscathed and on a roll after winning the Section II tournament Feb. 11 by defeating Mesa Red Mountain 65-44 at Mesquite High school.
“It’s nice to go in the state tournament playing well and on a roll,” said coach Sam Duane Jr. “We had to play three tough games at the sectional tournament, which should help get us ready for the challenges ahead.”
Making it to the sectional championship game and keeping their winning streak alive at 27 was no easy task for the Aztecs. For openers, Section II, which contains five of the top eight ranked teams, is undoubtedly the toughest Division I section in the state.
Second, the Aztecs’ major challenge came during their first game of the tournament against No. 14-ranked Dobson. Corona had easily defeated Dobson in two earlier games 85-55 and 84-70, but the Mustangs came out firing on all cylinders, making five treys, and had the Aztecs down by 18 at one point in the first half.
The Aztecs scrambled on defense and were able to finally get some shots to fall and ended up only being down by one point heading into the half. Dobson led most of the game with the score tied to start the fourth quarter. Corona went ahead by one point on a trey from Bryan Siefker with only seconds left to play. The Mustangs fell short of pulling off a huge upset when their shot missed before the buzzer and the Aztecs were able to squeak out a win.
“Like I tell our kids all the time, anyone can beat anyone on any given night,” said coach Duane. “It was good for us to play a close game against Dobson. We had not played a close game in a while. Getting so far down early in the game helped us to see that it’s important that we get ourselves mentally and physically prepared to come out ready to execute and play every night.”
Corona’s second-round game against the Gilbert Tigers, Feb. 10, was also a barn burner. The Aztecs fell behind early in that game too, actually down 11 points at 17-28 with a little over two minutes to go in the first half, but got a momentum shift when reserve players Elijah Hempstead sunk a three-footer and Braden Tennyson made two big shots outside the arch.
Corona was able to cut the lead to seven with hustle plays on both ends of the court. It started when Duane decided to go for trapping quickness. With four guards and power forward Avery Moss on the court, the Aztecs out hustled the Tigers scoring four unanswered points in the final two minutes of the first half.
The Aztecs mini-run was started when Moss was fouled going hard to the rim converting on one of his two free throws. Casey Benson, with a team-high 16 points, then swished a 2-pointer. On a Corona steal, Calaen Robinson was fouled driving to the basket making one of his two free throw attempts to make it 21-28 at the half.
Robinson, who ended the game with 13 points, came alive in the third quarter, blocking shots and scoring back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Tigers’ lead to just three points at 27-30. Benson made it a one-point game, 29-30, with a little over five minutes to play in the quarter.
Gilbert did not surrender the lead until Moss added two of his 11 points to put the Aztecs up 36-35 with two minutes to play in the third. Tennyson, who had a monster game off the bench, made his third out of the four treys for the night and the game was all tied up at 39 heading into the fourth and final quarter.
The Tigers kept it close, getting within one point at 43-42 but never led in the fourth quarter. Andrus Peat and Moss wore out the smaller Gilbert players in the paint, easily getting rebounds and put-backs in the final quarter. One Gilbert player, in particular, found out how hard it is to penetrate into the paint on Corona’s big guys, when he crumbled to the ground after running into Peat on a back door cut.
The Aztecs started to pull away with a 9 to 4 run and a 48-43 lead when the Tigers responded with a run of their own pulling within one point at 51-50 with 2:50 to play. Corona clamped down on defense holding the Tigers pointless the final minutes while making a 9-0 run to close out the game 60-50.
The championship game, Feb. 11, was against Mesa Red Mountain, the No. 6 team. This game was pivotal to the team’s momentum heading into the state tournament. Despite some interesting referee calls, the Aztecs were able to go up 30-20 with energetic traps forcing several turnovers which they converted to transition baskets and points in the paint.
“The trap worked well for us,” said Duane. “We were also very patient on offense, working the ball around to get good shots.”
Andrus Peat utilized his fluid post moves and size to grab several rebounds and score eight points in the first half while Robinson, also with eight points in the half, and Benson exploited the Mountain Lions’ weaknesses with good ball movement and control to gain the upper hand, spreading the offense to allow seven Aztecs to score, including Seifert, Tennyson, Moss and Cassius Peat.
Moss slammed down a thunderous one-handed dunk in traffic to start the second half and set the tone for the rest of the game. Tennyson and Hempstead came out with great defensive energy while Robinson and Benson continued their excellent ball movement to not only feed each other but to provide opportunities for others to shoot the ball.
The Aztecs outscored the Mountain Lions 12-5 in the third quarter and went on a 13-4 run in the fourth, made possible by outstanding defense resulting in turnovers or missed baskets as illustrated by Robinson taking a charge and blocked shots by Moss and Peat.
“We defended really well tonight,” said Duane. “What we did was not spectacular but we did a workman’s job and I thought we were pretty steady all night long. We just keep fighting and doing what we need to win, and that’s the most important thing at this point in the season.”
Duane started pulling starters at the four-minute mark when the Aztecs had a 57-29 lead, subbing in reserves Jesse McCain, Adam Gleave, Austin Millyard, Alex van Ryswyk and Matthew Lemke to finish the game.
McCain came away with five points, including a trey, and a block to end the game while Gleave scored two points. Benson ended the game with a team high 15 points. Robinson scored 13, Andrus Peat 12 and Seifert eight, including two treys.
The Aztecs are the No. 1 seed in the state tournament, earning a bye in the first round, which may make their run to the championship game a bit easier.
“It’s great that we have the No. 1 seed but we just need to continue preparing hard in practice and to stay focused if we are going to attain our ultimate goal of winning this state championship,” said Andrus Peat.
The Aztecs play their first game in the second round at home at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18, against the winner of the No. 16 seeded Desert Mountain versus No. 17 Boulder Creek. Their next game would be the quarterfinals at 7:45 p.m. Feb. 21 at ASU’s Wells Fargo Arena before the tournament switches out to the Jobing.com arena Feb. 23 and 25.
“It would be an awesome experience to play in the finals,” said Benson. “In order to get there, though, we need to continue playing hard together, as a team, one game at a time, to attain our team goal of winning the state championship.”
The semifinals and finals for Division I boys basketball start at 7:45 p.m. both nights. The brackets and results can be found on the team’s website at http://cdsboysbasketball.com
“Winning this state championship means everything to me,” said Moss. “It is all I want to finish my high school athletic career.”
Aztec wrestlers had a great season, beating every team they faced including the DI state champion, Ironwood Ridge, in a dual meet in Jan. 18 and winning the DI, Section II championship Feb. 4 at Skyline High School with a 230 to 213.5 point win over Chandler.
“We had a very strong lineup from the 106-pound weight class through the 285-weight class,” said coach Jim Martinez. “Our team found ways to win against the best teams in the state.”
The Aztecs had eight wrestlers in the Section II finals and won four individual titles, ending up qualifying nine wrestlers for the state tournament held the following week.
The four individual Section II titles went to Zach Walton (132 lbs); Daniel Cartagena (138 lbs); Ethan Tursini (145 lbs); and Jason Landrum (152 lbs). Aztec wrestlers taking second included Matt Churchill (113 lbs); Glenn Farina (126 lbs); Jay Tucker (182 lbs); and Steven Rodriquez (285 lbs). Justin Butler (160 lbs) finished fourth.
Unfortunately the Aztecs were not able attain their goal of placing eight wrestlers in the top six to win the state championship but ended up one wrestler short, with seven, according to Martinez. Only one other team,Cibola, had seven placers at state.
Chandler, with six wrestlers finishing in the top six, took home the team championship at the state tournament Feb. 10-11 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.”
“Although the Aztecs had eight wrestlers in the finals and won four individual titles, the current AIA method of determining a team champion is based on individual placement at the state tournament” said coach Martinez.
“Chandler had two very strong individuals who pinned their way into the championship, which helped them earn an additional 12 points for the team. Our wins in the tournament were regular decisions which didn’t give us the bonus points.”
Walton and Rodriguez took home second place state medals while Tucker was third, Cartagena, fourth, Tursini, fifth, and Farina and Butler sixth.
Coronawill return four state place winners next season but will graduate four seniors with impressive overall records as Aztec wrestlers: Steven Rodriguez (286 lbs.); Jay Tucker (182); Justin Butler (160); and Jason Landrum (152).
Rodriquez, team captain, accumulated a 42-7 record with limited time, as a Corona football player, to commit to preparing for the season.
“Steven, in spite of his time restriction, was committed to working hard, learning from his mistakes and focusing on what he needed to improve,” said Martinez. “He was our leader when it came to being ready for any level of competition.”
Tucker, with a 28-5 record, was hampered most of the season after suffering a concussion in December, and was released to compete only the night before the section tournament.
“Jay had a huge challenge not being able to wrestle at all for a big part of the season,” said Martinez. “He was easily the second best wrestler in his weight class in the state but his seeding at state placed him on the same side of the bracket as the eventual champion. He lost that match 3-2.”
Butler, who weighed 154 pounds, helped contribute to the team’s success by competing in the 160 pound weight class because the 145 and 152 weight spots were already filled by strong wrestlers. Even then, he was still able to compile a 28-17 record.
“Justin was our most over-achieving wrestler this year with the fight and spirit of a champion,” said Martinez. “He gave up 10 pounds of muscle or more each match yet managed to beat and pin some of the better wrestlers in his weight class because of his unique technique.”
Landrum, besides earning a section championship this season, compiled a 38-9 record wrestling for Corona.
“Jason, who placed fifth in the state tournament last year, was a runner-up at the Flowing Wells Invitational and was selected to the All-Tournament team at the Southwest Showdown,” said Martinez. “Unfortunately he did not have the results he was expecting at the state tournament losing in the quarterfinals.”
Marcos de Niza Wrestling
The Padres won their Division II Section III championship wrestling match over Prescott Feb. 4 and took five top-four seeds, including last year’s champion, Jesse Morales, to the state tournament Feb. 10 in Prescott Valley.
Marcos placed 11 wrestlers in the top six at sectionals including three champions: Jesse Morales (132 lbs.); Dylon Yole (170); and Adam Pavlenko (195).
Coming in second place was Zach Roybal (113); Rich Flores (138); and Richard Castro (HWT). Placing third were Dillon Pigsley (182) and Rashad Baker (220); fourth Tim Zamora (106) and Coleman Griffith (120); and fifth Ryan Sondrup (126).
Marcos, the runner-up to Sunrise Mountain last season, had high hopes of winning the team championship this year, qualifying 11 wrestlers but coming in third instead behind Ironwood Ridge and Gila Ridge, scoring 139.5 total points and placing seven wrestlers in the top four with Morales winning a championship at the 132-pound bracket.
Senior Morales, with a 32-6 record, won his second individual state championship in the new 132-pound category. He won last year in the 130-pound weight class and was fifth as a freshman, according to coach James Weed.
Yole, who won a state championship medal in 2010 but was unable to compete last year due to an injury in sectionals, had 21 pins heading into the state tournament, according to Weed. He placed second in the 170-weight class, compiling a 34-4 record this season.
Also taking home a second place medal was Castro, with a 41-6 record this season. He should also be in the record books at Marcos this season for having 26 heavy-weight class pins heading into the state tournament, according to Weed.
Senior Pavlenko, with an impressive 40-2 record, placed third after entering the tournament with 22 pins so far this season, according to Weed. Add these 22 pins from this season to the 50 he accumulated as of 2011 and Pavlenko should be close to reaching the records set by his two older brothers: Alex leading all time with 115 pins and Aaron fifth on the list with 74.
Three Marcos wrestlers placed fourth at state: Roybal, Flores and Pigsley. Roybal compiled a 26-8 record this season, Flores 14-4 and Pigsley 34-7.
Weed said he has high hopes for the Marcos wrestling program, with Pigsley being only a sophomore.
“I was thinking Dillon could make it in the top two if he had a good tournament,” said Weed.
McClintock wrestler Andrew Finn placed fifth at the Division II state tournament in the 152-pound weight class, compiling a 42-6 record over the 2011-12 season.
Letter of intent
Corona Senior soccer player Nicolette Newcomb, who was also recruited by schools in Colorado and California, signed a letter of intent to play at Minot State University in North Dakota. Newcomb, who fell in love with the team, coach and atmosphere at Minot, expects to play center midfield and says she is excited to be playing on a college team next year.
“I am looking forward to fulfilling the dream I have had since I was young to be part of a college soccer team,” said Newcomb. “I also wanted the opportunity to live somewhere else and experience college life at the same time so that’s why I choose an out-of-state school.
Coronasoccer coach Matt Smith thinks Nicolette will make a dynamic college soccer player.
“Nicolette is extremely technical and creative where her ability and patience with the ball at her feet sets her apart from many other players,” said Smith.
“In addition, she has developed into a very good leader, a player that other players respect and want to support and follow.”
Newcomb plans to study psychology at Minot.