The game ended in dramatic fashion, with referees taking names, but the teams may not have heard the end of it.
A Maricopa boys’ basketball team, again abbreviated by scholastic issues, played close to Sunnyslope but trailed in the final minutes. Every point mattered for the Rams in the fourth quarter as they chopped the Viking lead to one point on free throws from P.J. Austin.
At the final buzzer, Sunnyslope led 48-47 but was called for a foul as Maricopa senior Josh Johnson tried to get into the air from beyond the arc. Johnson missed his first free throw, then nailed the second to tie the score and the third to win, 49-48.
In the aftermath of celebrating Maricopa players and fans, and furious Sunnyslope players and fans, scuffles led to suggestions of calling the police and the referees noting the names of three Viking players. The situation will come to the attention of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
It was just the fourth loss of the season for Sunnyslope, ranked fourth in the state, while Maricopa’s overall record improved to 11-5. The Rams are ranked 17th.
“This really helps us and gives us some confidence,” coach Tony Fuller said.
The Vikings’ size inside caused the Rams problems all night, but Sunnyslope was never allowed to open a sizeable lead. Maricopa was the quicker team, and proved their conditioning by hanging with the deeper bench. The Rams had just four players on their bench, and only two of them were in a condition to play.
“We call them the divine nine,” Fuller said. “We got some good students who take care of business in the classroom. Scrappy. They make good plays, and everybody knows their role.”
Johnson led the Maricopa scoring with 18 points. Austin scored six vital points in the fourth quarter and finished with eight. Cameron Sanders and Jacob Cowing also scored eight each, and El Jones scored seven. Sunnyslope senior Kyle Fischer led all scoring with 20 points, and Chris Orozco scored 16.
The second half of Maricopa’s season is filled mostly with 5A Metro competition. The Rams play Sunnyslope again Jan. 23 on the road. Fuller said he feels his team needs to win three more games to reach the playoffs.
Next up is Kellis on Friday at 7 p.m. in Maricopa.