You couldn’t script a better setting Monday night at Grand Canyon University. One which had a happy ending for the Sunnyslope Vikings.
Outside it was pouring rain, inside it was raining noise in a mostly packed house as Sunnyslope and Apollo put on a double overtime thriller, eventually won by the Vikings 58-57 when Holland Woods narrowly missed sending the Hawks soaring to a 5A Boys State Championship.
“We know Holland would put his head down and his shoulder down and try to go to work,” a relieved Sunnyslope head coach Ray Portela said. “But our guys held their ground and we held them out for a tenth of a second too late.”
After controlling the first half behind the strong play of junior power forward Chris Orozco, ‘Slope found themselves on their heels as Apollo chipped away at the lead behind Woods’ game-high 33 points.
The teams combined for just four points in the first overtime before a pair of Kyle Fischer free throws proved to be the difference in one of the most exciting State Championship Games in recent memory.
Part of Sunnyslope’s second-half struggles could be attributed to their inability to make free throws, missing 10 of 20, including a handful late in the fourth quarter when Apollo was finally able to mount momentum.
Orozco paced the Vikings with 25 points, while Fischer added 17.
“I’m a big man down there,” Orozco said flashing a wide grin. “Sometimes I have to get my way. I had to go in strong. I had to finish. I’m thankful [we] finished.”
Woods was the only Hawks’ player in double figures as his backcourt sidekick Dre Marin struggled, scoring just nine points on 3-11 shooting.
What made it even sweeter for Sunnyslope, Monday’s victory not only off-set a triple overtime loss to Apollo back in mid-January, it also erases the memory of a close loss in the 6A title game last year to Mesa.