Early foul trouble led to a second-half breakdown that doomed the Sedona Red Rock Junior High School boys basketball team in the championship game of the Arizona Small Schools Basketball Championships.
The Scorpions [21-3] dropped a 35-26 overtime decision against Rock Point Community School on Saturday, Feb. 11, at Clarkdale-Jerome School.
Eighth-grade guards Micha Johnson and Carlos Landaverde fouled out in the third and fourth quarters, respectively, and the Scorpions could not cling to their lead.
“We hung in there, a couple of plays didn’t work out,” Scorpions head coach Pedro Ortega said. “We fought hard till the end but we couldn’t finish the job.”
Johnson and Landaverde were the catalysts to everything Red Rock did; they forced steals on the defensive end and ran the offense on the other.
But both picked up two fouls in the early stages of the game, which would later prove to be costly.
“We talked about being smart,” Ortega said. “We had played in foul trouble before, so I trusted them.”
Once Landaverde fouled out with 2:08 remaining, the Cougars took advantage.
With 22 seconds left in the game, Rock Point eighth-grade guard Johnston Begay tied the game on a driving layup and was fouled on the play. However he failed to convert the three-point play, giving Red Rock another chance.
But the Cougars exploded for 11 points in the three-minute overtime period to take the championship.
Ortega was proud of his players for having reached the championship game, but taking the title was the team’s goal at the start of the season, falling just short.
Scorpions eigth-grade guard Gavin Bruce nailed a triple to open the game, and Rock Point was careless with the ball throughout the quarter, committing 10 turnovers.
However Red Rock failed to convert on those extra chances and only led 10-5 after the first.
It was the same story in the second; another 10 turnovers by the Cougars resulted in just a 15-8 halftime lead for the Scorpions. They went zero for 12 in the quarter, scoring all five of their points from the free throw line.
The third quarter proved pivotal as Johnson fouled out with 51 seconds left and the Cougars began to find success from beyond the arc.
Rock Point eighth-grade guard Jermaine Ben sank a three immediately after Johnson went to the bench, sending the loud and energetic crowd into a frenzy.
“We wanted to get the ball to the high post then to the wing for a shot,” Ortega said. “A couple of shots didn’t go in and the momentum changed.”
Begay hit another triple to open the fourth, and once Landaverde fouled out, the crowd went mental. The Cougars put the nail in the coffin with four straight points to start overtime.
The Scorpions committed a combined 13 turnovers in the fourth quarter and overtime.