Hamilton guard Michael Garcia's game-winning shot from 18 feet rimmed out at the buzzer, as No. 6 Red Mountain hung on to beat the No. 7 Huskies, 45-44, in the Division I, Section II semifinal game at Mesquite High School.
Red Mountain will face No. 1 Corona del Sol in the sectional championship game on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. at Mesquite H.S.
Down three with 19 seconds left, Hamilton reserve wing Zach Alonso, who sparked the Huskies in the second half, connected on a mid-range jumper off an intricately-designed inbounds play to cut the lead to one.
After Red Mountain's Kevin Torres missed a free throw on a one-and-one foul, the Huskies raced the ball up floor. With five seconds left, Garcia appeared to have an opportunity to drive the ball baseline towards the rim.
Hamilton coach Kevin Hartwig called a timeout before Garcia had a chance to put a shot up.
It was the plan all along. But the Huskies appeared to have had a better opportunity before the timeout was called, compared to the highly-contested shot it took afterward.
"It was a difficult shot, but I was happy with the way our guys battled," Hartwig said.
Red Mountain had two key things go its way throughout the game.
First, it devised and executed a successful defensive plan against Hamilton's 6-foot 11-inch center Eric Jacobsen, and limited him to just eight points. The Lions used a much smaller interior defense with Juan Zuniga and Justin Park leading the way in a battle with Jacobsen for position, and the duo helped keep Jacobsen where the Lions wanted him: A foot outside the paint.
"People don't understand how strong (Park) is," Sessions said.
When the Huskies were able to successfully enter passes into the post, the Lions sent quick and feisty double-teams that kept Jacobsen off his sweet spots and harassing him when he shot.
"I just knew that I had to try to keep him out of the paint and contest as best as I could," Park said.
Red Mountain used a balance attack on offense, which it's relied on all year, to keep the Huskies off balance. Park led the Lions with 12 points, but the team was varied and versatile in its offense throughout.
Sometimes the Lions penetrated with guards like Kevin Torres and Travis Meeker that led to crisp ball movement against a rotating defense, and, eventually landed in the hands of an open man in the paint.
"That's what we've done all year and hopefully continue to do," Sessions said.