With seconds ticking off the clock in overtime of Thursday’s Class 4A state semifinal game, Salpointe Catholic’s Isaac Cruz pulled up from just inside the 3-point line.
The second-seeded Lancers squeezed by Catalina Foothills 57-55 at Amphitheater High School to advance to Saturday’s state championship game at Gila River Arena in Glendale. They’ll face top-seeded Phoenix Shadow Mountain, which is coached by former Arizona Wildcat legend and NBA star Mike Bibby.
“I told Cam (Miller) just give me the ball,” said Cruz, who tallied four of Salpointe’s five points in OT. “I dreamed of this moment.”
And what a moment it was. Cruz ran around the court and his teammates eventually caught up to hoist him on their shoulders.
All Miller could say about the shot was: “It’s an awesome feeling. I’ve been playing with him all my life. It’s an amazing feeling.”
Foothills had beaten Salpointe nine straight times since 2012, and twice this year, before Thursday night.
“When we heard we were playing them again, we were looking forward to it,” said Miller, the son of UA coach Sean Miller. “We were fully confident we’d get them this time.”
The Lancers were prepared, jumping out to a 10-4 lead with 2:30 left in the first quarter. Miller scored seven of the first 10 points — leading all scorers at the half with 11 points.
Salpointe’s defense was tight all game, clogging up the passing lanes and tipping balls.
The Falcons went on a 5-2 run in the last 1:40 of the first half. Carson James hit a 3-pointer and made two free throws for all five points. He scored eight points in the half, while Sam Beskind chipped in seven.
Cruz scored the final basket of the half, giving Salpointe a 26-24 lead.
Foothills won the third quarter, outscoring Salpointe 17-11 to take a 41-37 lead going into the last frame.
But Salpointe steadily climbed back into it, taking a one-point lead, 50-49, on a Miller 3-pointer with a little more than two minutes remaining in the game.
“These guys didn’t get down,” said Cruz, who finished with eight points. “Cam came up from the start and hit big shots all night long.”
Beskind was fouled and made both free throws to give Foothills a slim 51-50 lead. The Falcons’ Spencer Lewis made one of two free throws with 18 seconds left for a 52-50 advantage.
Salpointe’s Alec McCall countered with a basket to tie it at 52 and send it into OT.
Beskind scored all three points in OT for Foothills to finish with 16 points, but ultimately came up short. Lewis and Phoenix Katz each contributed 10 points.
Salpointe Catholic and Shadow Mountain will face off for the state championship on Saturday in Gila River Arena at 2:30 p.m.