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Ontario, Calif – Arrowhead Christian big man David Howerzyl collected his own miss from point blank range and put it back in the hoop as the final buzzer sounded, lifting the Eagles to a 62-60 victory over Bishop Diego in the CIF-SS Division 5AA Championship game on Saturday night at Colony High School.
The stunning finish left the Cardinals in disbelief and sent the Arrowhead Christian fans into a
frenzy as they celebrated a CIF championship.
“I’m just proud of the kids. We battled and battled,” said Bishop Diego coach James Coronado. “We knew rebounding was going to be an issue. Obviously the last one makes it seem like it was an issue all game.
“There were a couple crazy bounces that they got and there’s nothing you can do about that.”
The Eagles enjoyed a significant size advantage on the interior with the 6’ 5” Howerzyl and 6’ 3” Bailey Strikwerda.
On the decisive final possession Arrowhead Christian was inbounding the ball from the baseline with 2.8 seconds remaining. The entire gymnasium knew that the Eagles would attempt to dump it inside and exploit their primary advantage, but in the end there was nothing Bishop Diego could do to stop it.
“When you’re battling a guy that’s 6’6” and you’re 6’1” you have to do everything right,” Coronado said. “You have to box out, you have to be in a good position, you have to body them from the top of the key and if we make one mistake and the 6’6” guy gets a step on us it’s pretty easy for them.”
The Cardinals were firing on all cylinders at the start of the game and took a 21-12 lead at the end of the first behind 10 points from Tyler Williams. The lead ballooned to 30-17 on a three-pointer by Matthew Cunningham midway through the second quarter, but Arrowhead Christian cut its deficit to 30-22 going into the locker room at halftime.
The second half was a completely different game as the Eagles shot 57.1 percent with many of those attempts coming right at the rim.
“I think our advantage was inside and we kept pounding it and pounding it in the hope that they would break down sooner or later,” said Arrowhead Christian first-year head coach Lance Evbuomwan.
The Eagles opened the second half with a 6-0 run and continued to roll until they built up a 56-47 lead with just under two minutes to play. However, Bishop Diego refused to quit.
The Cardinals converted six free throws in just under a minute and tied the game on a Cunningham three-pointer with 18 seconds to play.
Arrowhead Christian point guard Gabe Torrez led all scorers with 20 points. The Cardinals were led offensively by Kai Morphy, who finished with 17 points, including a perfect 9-of-9 from the free-throw line.
The Cardinals will discover their opponent for the first round of the State tournament on Sunday.