It felt like a home game for No. 2 Arcadia in its 48-46 win over Phoenix Sierra Linda on Saturday night in the Division II, Section III championship game at Coronado High School.
At least, Larry Lewis and Co. felt that way at the end, as Lewis hit the game-winning shot on a hard drive to the basket with two seconds left.
The win helped Arcadia earn the No. 1 seed in the Division II state tournament and a first-round bye. The Titans play the Flagstaff-Bradshaw Mountain winner next Saturday night.
Lewis finished with 21 points, 14 of which came in the second half. Fellow senior Andrew Naderer finished the night with 18 points, 13 of which came in the second half as the Titans erased a 10-point deficit.
"I was just trying to take the ball to hoop," Lewis said. "I knew if I didn't make the shot I would go to the foul line. It was just another shot for me, I wasn't really thinking about it being the game winning shot."
The Titans spent the entire second half trying to get back into the game. With barely a minute left in the third quarter, Naderer hit Arcadia's first three point shot of the game to cut the Sierra Linda lead down to one point.
It was the first of a few big shot of the game for Naderer.
After the Bulldogs took a 38-34 lead into the fourth quarter, Naderer and Lewis brought the Titans back to within striking distance again. Naderer made his second 3-pointer of the game with 90 seconds left in the fourth quarter that again brought Arcadia to within a single point.
Finally, with 45 seconds left, Lewis hit a free throw to give The Titans their first lead since the first quarter.
Antonio Simmons was fouled on the ensuing Sierra Linda possession and tied the game by splitting a pair of free throws. That set the stage for Lewis and Arcadia on the final shot.
"Larry saw an opening and took advantage of it on that last shot." Arcadia coach Luke Neibling said.
Despite the pro-Titans crowd (Coronado H.S. is a 10-minute drive from Arcadia's campus), the Bulldogs came out with the hot hand. Four 3-pointers helped Sierra Linda jump out to an 18-15 lead at the end of the first quarter.
By halftime the Bulldogs lead ballooned to 10 points, and if Arcadia wanted to get back into the game, it was clear the Titans best players would lead the way.
Lewis and Andrew Naderer did just that.
Arcadia played all zone defensively in the first half, but changed it up to man-to-man, which slowed down the outside shooting of Sierra Linda.
"We knew when they had that little cushion that we would have to match up and contest the ball." Neibling said.
Sierra Linda is an up-tempo team but the Titans slowed them down and played at a pace that coach Neibling was happy with.
"Both of us like to play an up-tempo game, but we saw what they did to (Laveen) Betty Fairfax in the second round and we knew we didn't want to get into an up-tempo game with them," Neibling said. "They are one of the best teams in the state at running in transition."
Arcadia has won nine games in a row heading into the state tournament.
"This sectional tournament was highly competitive and the most important thing is, going into the state tournament, we will be battle tested." Neibling said.