A state runner-up in 2010, Amphitheater of Tucson broke through and won a championship Saturday, beating Tempe 87-77 in Arizona's Class 4A Division II final at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
"It was worth it. It was a long wait waiting for this day, but it was worth it," Amphitheater head coach Ben Hurley said. "The kids were excited, but I’m glad it’s over and that we have the championship trophy."
Amphitheater was able to hold off the Buffaloes despite a 31-point fourth quarter that made the final score a bit deceiving.
It ended the Cinderella run of seventh-seeded Tempe (22-10). Amphitheater (29-2) was the No. 1 seed.
Junior guard Tim Derksen paced the Panthers with 26 points, 14 in the first half. The 6-foot-3 guard was averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds and five assists heading into Saturday’s championship.
While Derksen led the team in scoring, Amphitheater was once again able to get strong contributions from numerous players, a key to Hurley’s gameplan.
"That’s the key to us. That’s been the key to our team the entire year," Hurley said. "We have a lot of talent on the team, but the guys are still willing to put the team first and buy into what we do — substituting a lot, putting defense first and playing uptempo. It was a great team win today."
Other players in double figures for Amphitheater were Tony Lillard, a 5-foot-8 junior guard, who surprised everyone by scoring 16 points in the first half — including four three-pointers. He finished with 19 point. Senior captain Domineik Banks finished with 12 points. Charles Benson, a 6-foot-5 junior forward, scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half.
Tempe was led by Jordan Baker, a 6-foot-3 senior who committed to Pepperdine prior to the season.
Baker missed the final two months of last season due to a broken wrist, but the guard again showed he’s fully recovered as he scored 36 points.
Tempe had not been in the state playoffs since 2001 or a state final since 1990 and was seeking its first-ever state title.
Amphitheater lost in the 2010 final to Santa Rita 86-84.