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Sunnyslope holds on in 2nd OT to win title

The referees made Apollo, Sunnyslope and fans anxiously wait a few more minutes before officially declaring a winner in the 5A Conference boys state basketball championship game.    

As if five overtime periods in three games wasn’t enough drama for Sunnsylope and Apollo this season.

Heck, why not add a few more minutes of tension for these two excellent teams.  

After reviewing the game-ending video footage, the officials ruled that the final shot of the game at Grand Canyon University Arena Monday was released by Holland Woods after the buzzer. Sunnyslope could finally exhale.

The Vikings won 58-57 and don’t have to face Woods, who scored 96 points in three games against Sunnyslope this season, anymore. But what a trilogy Sunnyslope and Apollo scripted this season.

It’s been said many times before, but it’s truely a shame that one of these two teams had to lose after the expanded effort Apollo and Sunnyslope put forth during their three meetings this season.

Woods did everything in his power down the stretch to almost pull out the victory for Apollo. The ball was in Woods’ hands, just as probably everybody in the building envisioned, with 7.8 seconds remaining in the second overtime.

After crossing midcourt, Woods was headed toward a double screen teammates were setting up.

Kyle Fischer and Zach Paloma, however, double teamed him before Woods got to his teammates. But the senior guard managed to break free down the left side, where he was a lethal force Monday.

But Fischer made Woods take an extra step to break free. That was just enough to allow the clock to run out on Apollo’s season.

“We always stayed positive,” said Sunnyslope coach Ray Portela, who won his first title as coach in seven seasons at Sunnyslope, Portela’s alma mater.

There were times near the end of regulation and in overtime where Sunnyslope didn’t appear oh so positive. Apollo’s early defensive breakdowns, Sunnyslope’s execution and Chris Orozco’s low post points kept Sunnyslope from trailing in regulation.

But Apollo hung around and eventually went ahead for the first time with 3:47 remaining in the second overtime.

“We fought back like champions,” Apollo coach Jacob Marin said.

Sunnylope missed three free throws with the score tied 48-48 in the final 27.6 seconds in regulation and missed three close range shots in the final seconds of the first overtime. In the second overtime, Apollo went ahead 55-52 after two Woods free throws with 1:47 left in the game.

Orozco scored 25 points but didn’t score from the 6:42 mark of the fourth quarter until 51.6 was on the clock, when Orozco made one free throw, in the second the second overtime.

With 40.3 left in the second overtime, Fischer was fouled. He made the first free throw but missed the second one, leaving Woods and Fischer fighting for possession.

A whistle was then blown, with the possession arrow in Sunnyslope’s favor. Fischer was rewarded for his hustle off his free throw miss, scoring a basket to give Sunnyslope a slim 56-55 lead.

But Woods followed with a 2-point basket of his own. The senior scored 18 of his 33 points in the game after the third quarter.

At the 7.8 mark of the second overtime, Fischer came through again after converting two free throws, Sunnyslope’s final points of the season.

Sunnyslope’s victory marked the first time it beat region and district foe Apollo in three tries this season.  

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