Somewhere on its way to another state championship, Saguaro's boys basketball team misplaced its shooting touch.
Gone were the timely 3-pointers, the offensive put backs and the fast-break layups.
The Sabercats got away with it once in the semifinals. They couldn’t do it against Nogales in Saturday’s 4A Division I title game.
The Apaches earned their fifth state championship with a 57-44 victory over Saguaro at Jobing.com Arena.
Saguaro had scored just 36 points in its semifinal win over Peoria. It wasn’t much better Saturday with only guard Jack Connors reaching double figures with 18 points. Arthur Martinet added 7 and Ryan Berg added 6.
“I didn’t think we could shoot this poorly two games in a row,” Sabercats coach Bob LaRue said.
For LaRue, the key moment in the game came in the final two minutes of the first half.
Saguaro was doing just fine as it had built up a 22-13 lead with 1:30 left in the half. But Nogales got a basket by Victor Dominguez and then a 3-pointer by Joseph Monreal just before the buzzer to cut the lead to 22-18 at the break.
“We picked the worst time to have a bad shooting day,” sophomore Ryan Berg said. “They are one of the quickest teams we’ve played and they closed out on our shots pretty good.”
LaRue was not happy about the final 30 seconds considering he had called time out to set up his team’s offense. Not only did the Sabercats leave too much time on the clock, Connors turned the ball over while trying to drive to the basket.
“I think we lost the game in the final minute of the first half,” LaRue said. “I just wanted us to get a good shot and we didn’t do that and then we lost the ball.”
The zone defense played by both teams slowed down the pace of the game considerably with fast-break points hard to come by.
Nogales took its first lead of the game since the first quarter when Dominguez scored to give the Apaches a 27-26 lead in the third quarter. Another basket by Dominguez in the final seconds of the third quarter put Nogales up 34-32.
In the fourth quarter it was a matter of Saguaro making very few baskets and Nogales making a living at the free throw line. The Apaches were 9-of-11 in the final quarter.
Monreal had 20 points and it was his 3-pointers in the first half that kept Nogales from being behind by a significant amount at the half.
Cesar Solis added 11 for the Apaches.
For the Sabercats it was still a very good season with the 23 wins, and four of their losses came in overtime. But nothing could be braced to cushion the final fall.
“This is hard,” Berg said. “We’ve worked so hard this season and battled and to come up barely short, it hurts.”