2/25/2013 6:00:00 AM Tigers stand tall after pulling off week of upsets
Kingman Academy’s Breyden Potter pulls down an offensive rebound during the second half of the Tigers’ 67-56 win Saturday night in the 3A CAA championship game at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix. RODNEY HAAS/Miner
KAHS’ Lance Martin gets tangled up with a pair of NFL YET players in the second half of the Tigers’ 67-56 win Saturday night at in the 3A CAA championship game. Martin ended the night with 10 points as the Tigers captured the school’s first state championship in boys basketball. RODNEY HAAS/Miner
PHOENIX - The clock didn't strike midnight for the Cinderella Kingman Academy Tigers Saturday night in the 3A Charter Athletic Association Championship game.
Instead, by the time the clock did hit midnight the Tigers were on the bus heading back to Kingman with some added baggage - the 3A CAA state championship trophy.
Tarik Skubal hit a three-pointer midway through the second quarter to give the Tigers a 24-22 lead over NFL YET. They never looked back en route to a 67-56 win to capture the school's first boys basketball state championship at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix.
"It feels great. It's been such a hard season. I can't believe we actually got it," said senior Johnny Herrero. "We lost some easy games. We could've been a lot higher seed; I guess we showed up when we needed to. It's incredible."
The Tigers' (22-6) road to the state title wasn't an easy one. As a fifth seed, they had to get past fourth seed Metro Tech Tuesday and then faced top seed West Phoenix on Friday night, a team the Tigers had never beat in boys basketball.
"We got over that one feat," Herrero said. "Getting over West Phoenix. That is something that Kingman Academy has never done in basketball."
Henry Chinyere, whose clutch free throws helped secure the win over Metro Tech before scoring 20 points in Friday's upset win over West Phoenix, added 17 points Saturday night and was named tournament Most Valuable Player.
"He came out of his shell and now he has to realize that this is what I expect of him every game," said coach Bryant Morrison of Chinyere, who will return next year for his junior year. "I don't want to wait 24 games for this."
KAHS trailed 13-8 after the first quarter but came back to take a 30-24 lead at halftime. The Tigers had a 48-37 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Lance Martin had 10 points for the Tigers and Skubal ended the night with nine.
Morrison is in his first year as coach and took over a team that finished the 2011-12 season 8-13 and missed the CAA playoffs.
"I knew all season we had the team to win state, it was just what team would show up," Morrison said. "We stuck to the game plan of boxing out, rebounding and playing our game, and we knew what it took to win state and we did it."
Herrero says Morrison is the biggest reason the team was successful.
"Coach Morrison came in and we just bonded," Herrero said. "We've always had the talent, but we've never bonded or had the chemistry. That's something that we haven't had in year's past."
As for Morrison, he will give the team the month of March off before starting things back up again in April, as the Tigers will look to continue the success next year when KAHS moves to the AIA's Division III for basketball.