2023-24 Boys Basketball

Sahuaro comes up short in overtime against Deer Valley for 4A state championship

Sahuaro experienced a memorable 24-5 season (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Cisco Llamas scored all 14 of his points in the second half and overtime, but the fourth-seeded Cougars came up short 63-61 to No. 3 Glendale Deer Valley in the 4A state championship on Thursday night at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.

Sahuaro ends its season 24-5 after reaching the state championship game for the first time since it won its last title in 2000-01 with the legendary Dick McConnell as the head coach.

Jim Henry, a Sahuaro alum who coached under McConnell from 2004 to 2007, told AllSportsTucson.com’s Andy Morales that he appreciated the support he received from Tucsonans including area coaches before the game.

“It’s been fun, it really has,” Henry said. “The number of people who have reached out the last three days, all coaches around Tucson have been supporting what we’ve been doing, really rallying and saying, ‘Bring it back to Tucson.’

“I feel bad that we couldn’t do that for everybody else because it’s difficult when you get here and you don’t go home with the trophy. But it’s been fun. I told these guys what they have accomplished this year has meant a lot. It has meant a lot not just to Sahuaro; it’s meant a lot to Tucson.”

Sahuaro once again received contributions from more than Llamas and senior forward Nick Ponds to make the game competitive against Deer Valley, which beat the Cougars two weeks ago at home 69-66 in overtime in the first round of the Open Division playoffs.

Llamas, only a sophomore, was scoreless in the first half and Ponds had only four points by halftime but Sahuaro still trailed only 35-33 at that point.

Jamal Ali had 11 points and Ayumu Lara scored eight by halftime. That duo went scoreless thereafter but Llamas and Ponds combined for 24 points following the half.

Ponds’ shot in the lane in the waning seconds of regulation tied the game at 53 and forced overtime.

Deer Valley (27-4) outscored Sahuaro 10-8 in the overtime.

Most of Sahuaro’s players return, including Llamas, but Ponds, a senior, will graduate in less than three months.

“I feel for our seniors, they’ve put in so much work the last couple of years,” Henry said. “I am ready to bring that junior, sophomore and freshman group back next year. We’re ready to get back to work because this is a lot of fun.

“We want to be back here.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top