November 24, 2004
Corona del Sol has the talent to play with the state’s best. It may just not have the experience to finish just yet.
The ninth-ranked Aztecs led No. 4 Phoenix St. Mary’s throughout most of their Mesa tournament semifinal game Tuesday night, but couldn’t hold on in a 79-75 loss.
St. Mary’s (2-0) will play No. 2 Mesa High, 50-18 winners over Mountain Pointe in Tuesday’s other semifinal, for the tournament championship at 8:30 tonight. Corona will play Mountain Pointe in the third-place game at 6:45 p.m.
For most of Tuesday’s game it appeared Corona (1-1) would be the team facing Mesa tonight. Corona led by as many as 10 points in the second half but was undone by turnovers in the fourth quarter.
"We have a lot of inexperience going on right now," said Alex Wentis, the lone senior in Corona’s starting lineup. "You can fault that a little bit, but we were right there."
St. Mary’s took its first lead since the second quarter when Thaddeus Whyte’s putback made the score 64-63 just over a minute into the final period.
The Aztecs stayed close and Clayton Bates’ baseline jumper cut the lead to two points with 12.3 seconds remaining. Corona immediately fouled Alex Farrer, who converted his first free throw and missed his second. Corona rebounded the miss but threw the outlet pass out of bounds.
T.J. Topercer then hit oneof-two free throws to ice the game.
Corona had the ball with a chance to tie or take the lead six times after falling behind, but failed on every chance. Five of the possessions ended on turnovers.
"Silly passes. We didn’t take care of the ball and that’s us being young," Corona coach Sammy Duane said. "We turned the ball over 26 times. We were lucky to be in the game."
The Aztecs were in the game because the Knights were just as sloppy as they were in the first three quarters. St. Mary’s finished with 27 turnovers, but gave the ball away just twice in the final period.
Topercer led all scorers with 22 points. Jerryd Bayless added 20, Whyte scored 19 and Farrer had 11 for St. Mary’s.
Brett Miller scored 16 points and Demetrious Earl added 15 to lead Corona.