Cholla cruised past visiting No. 20 Flagstaff Coconino 54-42, in the first round of the Division II boys basketball state tournament on Thursday night.
"We haven't had a playoff game around here in 21 years," Cholla coach Masai Dean said. "This is real big for our community, for our fans, for our students, for our school and also for Tucson."
Thirteenth-ranked Cholla will now travel to Phoenix to play No. 4 Paradise Valley on Saturday at 7 p.m.
A two-handed jam from 6-foot-7-inch Julio Valdez on a behind the back pass from Jorge Carrasco put the exclamation point on a big win for the much younger and smaller Chargers.
"It was a pretty intense crowd tonight," Valdez said. "When I got that dunk I could hear everyone."
At 5 feet 6 inches, Carrasco might be the smallest player on the team but he came up big when his team needed him, scoring a team-high 13 points, including nine in the second half.
"I was just in the flow," Carrasco said. "Coach told me to be ready off the bench and that's what I did."
Despite a quiet night from the Chargers leading scorer Julio Duarte, Cholla never trailed thanks to a quick six by Duarte in the first quarter.
Duarte would finish with 10 points, just under half of his season average.
The Chargers' Eric Luna would pick up the slack, connecting on four first-half three-pointers for 12 points, to give Cholla a 29-18 lead at the break.
"He's our knock-down shooter. Our team captain," said Masai. "He's come through all year. Tonight was real big for him."
It was a pair of Panthers bigs, Andy Bonner and Josh Ingram, that kept Coconino close.
Bonner would score 10 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Ingram finished second on the team with 12.
The Panthers came out inspired to open the second half, scoring the first six points to close the gap to five, before Valdez and Carrasco helped push the lead back toward double digits, 39-30, heading into the fourth.
Five different Chargers scored in the fourth quarter.
• No. 19 Amphitheater 66, No. 14 Glendale Copper Canyon 64: At Copper Canyon, junior Yusef Shehata went coast-to-coast to sink a game-winning layup moments after the Aztecs tied the game with a pair of free throws.
Amphi (17-12) advanced for the fifth year in a row. It will play at third-ranked Phoenix Sierra Linda on Saturday at 7 p.m.
"This is a team that's had a lot of adversity and a lot of injuries throughout the year and now we're finally at full strength," coach Ben Hurley said.
• No. 12 Goodyear Desert Edge 58, No. 21 Canyon del Oro 55: At Desert Edge, the Scorpions won for the seventh time in eight games to eliminate the Dorados (17-12).
• No. 24 Sunnyside 73, No. 9 Phoenix Brophy 69, OT: At Brophy, the Blue Devils stunned the Broncos in overtime to move on to the second round where they will face No. 8 Goodyear Millennium on Saturday at 7 p.m.
Sunnyside (19-8) outscored the Broncos 11-7 in overtime and locked the game up when senior Raul Castro, who scored a game-high 20 points, made back-to-back free throws to put the game out of reach.
"It was a big win for our guys. They just played their tails off," Sunnyside coach Rob Harrison said.
• No. 21 Sierra Vista Buena 60, No. 12 Glendale Deer Valley 55: At Deer Valley, sophomore Roderick Springer scored a game-high 18 points, 11 of which came in the second quarter, to send the Colts to the second round for the third straight season.
"He was lights out in the second quarter," Buena coach Dave Glasgow said about Springer.
Senior RaShawn Avery added 17 points and sophomore Mojave Nick scored 10 points off the bench for the Colts.
Buena (21-9) will next play at fifth-seeded Scottsdale Desert Mountain on Saturday at 7 p.m.
• No. 19 Cienega 60, No. 14 Avondale Westview 57, OT: At Westview, junior David Rauer hit a game-tying three-pointer at the buzzer to send the game in to overtime and the Bobcats held off the Knights from there.
"It was a great shot," Cienega coach Matt Johnson said.
Sophomore Darren Biggs scored 16 points for Cienega (21-7) and was one of four Bobcats to score in double figures.
Cienega will face third-seeded Phoenix Pinnacle on Saturday at 7 p.m.
State tournament schedule
Division IV boys
• No. 18 Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa vs. No. 15 San Miguel, at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley, noon
• No. 23 Surprise Arizona Charter vs. No. 10 St. Gregory, at Tim's Toyota Center, 3 p.m.
Bye: No. 2 Desert Christian
Division IV girls
• No. 19 San Miguel vs. No. 14 Phoenix Christian, at Tim's Toyota Center, 10:30 a.m.
• No. 20 Immaculate Heart vs. No 13 Pima, at Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain High School, 3 p.m.
• No. 22 Green Fields Country Day vs. No. 11 Glendale Joy Christian, at Prescott High School, 1:30 p.m.
Byes: No. 7 Desert Christian, No 8 St. Gregory
Division I girls
• No. 12 Mountain View at No. 5 Chandler Hamilton, 7 p.m.
Division II girls
• No. 13 Canyon del Oro at No. 4 Phoenix Thunderbird, 7 p.m.
• No. 11 Phoenix Arcadia at No. 6 Flowing Wells, 7 p.m.
• No. 10 Gilbert Campo Verde at No. 7 Sahuaro, 7 p.m.