It was one of the best high school basketball games in many years and it was also an amazing way to go out for several of Arizona's best 2014 prospects, as Corona's 6-foot-3 senior guard Casey Benson (University of Oregon signee) and Pinnacle's 6-foot-5 star senior guard/forward Dorian Pickens (Stanford University signee) would battle it out down the stretch. Corona would eventually win their third-straight Division-I state title in overtime over a game group from Pinnacle HS, 71-70.
At the beginning of the season, I had picked Corona (33-1) and Pinnacle (23-10) as the state's top two teams in the Division-I Class, but after Pinnacle lost 4-straight games in this season's VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge, while several players were injured, many basketball enthusiasts in the state seemed to forget about Pinnacle. But a healthy Dorian Pickens, 6-foot-1 senior guard Trey Ingram and 6-foot-7 senior post Ty Griffin returned to action to help the Pioneers make a strong run late in the season.
On Saturday, it looked almost exactly like the end to the 2012-2013 high school basketball season, as Corona and Pinnacle would face off again for all the marbles. Last season, Dorian Pickens would catch fire early in the game and fizzle out late in the game, as Benson would take over down the stretch for his team - winning the state title. On Saturday, Pickens would leave it all on the floor - scoring a game-high 40 points and making big shot, after big shot for his team to help them almost win it all.
While Benson would elect to pass the ball to his teammates for much of the game, the star senior guard would put his team on his back late in the game and carry them to victory. Benson would convert a nice transition layup, then make two clutch free-throws late in regulation to help his team to come from behind late to send the game into overtime.
The game would go into overtime after a last second missed three-point attempt by Pickens and an offensive rebound by teammate, 6-foot-6 junior forward Ben Wahlberg. Wahlberg would get fouled on a put-back shot attempt inside at the buzzer, after the referees reviewed the play. Wahlberg would go to the free-throw line, but would only convert 1 of 2 free-throws - tieing the game at 62 all and sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, Corona would build a quick 5-point lead on an offensive rebound and put-back by superb freshman guard Alex Barcello and a clutch three-pointer by Benson. Dorian Pickens would come up big again with a clutch three-pointer of his own, and then a three-point play after being fouled on a transition driving basket after a steal by Pickens - giving Pinnacle the lead by one, 70-69.
But with the game on the line and with just a minute left to play, Casey Benson, as he has his entire high school career, would convert a driving layup with his right hand - a fitting finish for the left-handed player that is the best ambidextrous player in the state. The basket would give Corona a 71-70 lead with just second left to play.
After a missed final shot attempt by Pickens, Corona would win their 3rd consecutive state title - an amazing feat for an amazing team, coach and program. A fitting end to another amazing high school boys basketball season.