By Greg Perkins –
The Roadrunners dreams of back-to-back state titles came crashing down on Friday night when their late game comeback bid came up short against Thatcher in double overtime, 78-67. Holbrook entered the semifinal round as the top overall seed and a heavy favorite to at least advance to the title game. Thatcher was the No. 4 seed and had lost just three games all season, matching Holbrook in the loss column.
From the outset the Eagles employed a triangle and two defense trying to keep Torrian Epps and Jalen Jackson, Holbrook’s top two scorers, under control. That strategy worked in the first period as Holbrook netted just six points despite getting several open outside shots. The Roadrunners shot just 15 percent in the first half and as a result, they trailed at the break 30-18. As cold as they were, the Eagles were just the opposite, hitting four open three-point shots in the first two quarters.
In the third Holbrook played better on offense, netting 22 points behind a solid inside game from Ryan Baldonado, who scored seven. Epps found some room from the outside with a pair of three-point shots as he tried to give the Birds some momentum. Thatcher’s guards scorched the nets for five three-point shots in the period, keeping the Eagles on top 49-40 with eight minutes left in regulation.
Thatcher went into a stall game midway through the fourth period, which allowed Holbrook to gain momentum. When Bryson Keoni’s three-point shot found the mark with less than a minute left, Holbrook had its first tie of the game at 57-57. After stopping the Eagles, the Roadrunners had a chance to win in regulation, but a three-point shot from Sheldon Silversmith was just off the mark as time expired, sending the game to the first overtime.
In the first extra session Holbrook got its first lead of the game on a bucket by Keoni. Then with the Birds on top by a point Thatcher forced a Holbrook turnover and went back on top by one. An offensive rebound on a free throw and put back by the Eagles with less than ten seconds left put them up 64-61. Keoni then hit a buzzer beater from the top of the key, sending the teams to a second overtime.
In the second overtime session the Eagles jumped out early and took advantage of Holbrook turnovers to pull away and put an end to the Roadrunners’ season with the 78-67 double overtime win. The Eagles outscored Holbrook 14-3 in the second overtime.
Holbrook was led by Epps, who scored 18 points despite being closely guarded for much of the night. Keoni added 15; Baldonado, 13; Jackson, 8; Rashaun Baldwin, 7; and Dakota Lester, 6 on two treys. Holbrook made nine three-point shots and went 14 for 20 at the free throw line.
Thatcher also finished with nine three-point shots and made 17 of 26 charity tosses.
The Eagles moved on to the title game, where they were soundly beaten by a good Gilbert Christian team, 62-42.
THS 14 16 19 8 7 14 78
HHS 6 12 22 17 7 3 67
Holbrook finished the season with an impressive record of 33-4, just two games short of a state record for wins in a season, as well as a second title.