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Chavez's free throws seal it for Gila Ridge
Gila Ridge guard Dillon Chavez blew his first chance to be a hero at the free-throw line for the Hawks boys basketball team.
When he got another chance two seconds later, he didn't let it slip away.
The senior guard made a pair of free throws to seal a thrilling 42-39 win over Mohave at home Tuesday night.
“He's a senior. This is his time,” Gila Ridge coach Joe Daily said about Chavez. “He's been waiting for four years for this, and it's about time he's got his chance.”
With the Hawks leading 40-39, Chavez was fouled with 15 seconds left in the game. However, he badly missed the front end of a one-and-one but Hawks sophomore post Parker Rodriguez knocked the rebound back to half court to Chavez, who was fouled two seconds later.
“I knew if he made one, he'd make the other because he's one of our best free-throw shooters,” said Hawks junior guard Marcus Weeks, who finished with a team-high 13 points on 6 of 7 shooting.
“I had a lot of confidence in him,” Daily said. “If anybody was out there, I'd want it to be him on the line.”
Chavez, who finished with five points on the night, calmly made both to give the Hawks a little bit of breathing room.
“It took a lot of the nerves out but then again, you need the second one to put us up by three,” Chavez said about making the first free throw. “I slowed down my move and focused.”
The Thunderbirds (4-6) got two looks at a 3-pointer but missed both and finished 2 for 19 from beyond the arc.
This was the 10th time this season that the Hawks, who played an aggressive man-to-man defense against the Thunderbirds, have held a team to fewer than 50 points.
“We preach defense a lot because defense is going to cause our offense,” Daily said. “The game seemed slow-paced and we finally realized how to play under control — both on offense and defense.”
For most of the night, it didn't look to be a game that Gila Ridge would need to hang on to win. The Hawks (6-2) jumped out to a 25-9 lead early after a lay-up by senior wing Kevin McCullough with four minutes left in the second quarter. However, Mohave chipped away and got it to 36-30 early in the fourth after a basket by Kyle Garney, who finished with a game-high 15 points.
McCullough and John McLaren each added baskets for the Hawks, who held a 40-30 lead with less than two minutes to go.
Then Gila Ridge had a meltdown.
Mohave forward Zach Bray came up with a basket, and Mohave's half-court trapping defense led to three straight Gila Ridge turnovers — which led to three straight Thunderbird layups to make it 40-38 with 52 seconds left.
“They pressed us at half court and we kind of buckled under the pressure,” Chavez said.
“We have a pretty young team and haven't been in situations like that very much, so we're still getting used to things,” Weeks said. “We just got a little too comfortable with a 10-point lead.”
Gila Ridge found McCullough under the basket on the next possession but his shot was off, which gave Mohave one last chance to tie it. However, Mohave forward Kevin Holt split a pair of free throws and Chavez sealed it on the other end.
“We lost four games, tight games — three were buzzer-beaters — at the very end, so I know it was probably going through the heads of them,” Daily said. “Even us coaches are thinking ‘not again.' But when Dillon made those free throws, that was huge for us.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.