Chandler Hamilton players lingered for a few extra moments on the court at Jobing.com Arena Thursday night, flabbergasted at the bizarre turn of events that robbed them of a spot in the 5A-I state championship game.
Hamilton had possession of the ball and a four-point lead just 16 seconds away from victory, but a technical foul called on Zak Hambsch resulted in a five-point swing as Phoenix St. Mary's pulled out an improbable 58-57 semifinal boys basketball win in Glendale.
According to officials, Hambsch threw the ball at St. Mary's guard James Hollins following a timeout call by Hamilton, giving St. Mary's two free throws and the ball. Collins hit both free throws and then a 3-pointer with 4.5 seconds left for the win.
Hollins admitted bumping Hambsch after Hamilton called the timeout.
"I walked by and I bumped the kid," Hollins said. "The kid retaliated, and they always call the technical on the (person who retaliates). He pushed me, so they called the technical on the kid."
Hamilton coach Kevin Hartwig was baffled at the timing of the call in a game that was physical from start to finish.
"I can't explain it to those guys in there (his players in the locker room) that the refs decided something on the sideline that had no meaning," Hartwig said. "The (ref) closest, looking right at it, did nothing. Some guy 30 feet away made the call."
Hamilton trailed 26-20 at the end of the second quarter, but was the better team in the second half.
John Jackson had 12 of his 16 points after intermission, and Ryan Evans hit a pair of free throws with 47.6 seconds left for a 57-51 lead. Evans finished with a game-high 21 points and added seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
Hollins hit a floater to cut the lead to 57-53, and Evans was fouled with 33 seconds left. He missed both free throws, but Alante Wright came up with the ball and called timeout. The Huskies then moved the ball around for 15 seconds with St. Mary's unable to foul and called timeout.
That's when Hambsch was whistled for the technical and the game changed.
Hollins hit the free throws, then used a screen from Byron Fulton to get free for a moment, and confidently sank the 3-pointer.
"He's a clutch player," St. Mary's coach David Lopez said. "He's the one that fires us up, he's the one that settles us down. He's experienced and he's been there a few times."
The Knights will play Phoenix Desert Vista at 8 p.m. today in the championship.