Tim Derksen led Amphitheater High School to a 72-63 overtime win against Canyon Del Oro High School on Jan. 31.
Amphi stepped onto the floor with energy, implementing a full-court press and swarming the ball defensively, leading to two CDO turnovers in the first three minutes of play. Offensively, both teams struggled early until CDO’s Nico Hughes drained a three-pointer two minutes in to open all scores.
CDO adapted to the pressure of Amphi to maintain the lead for the majority of the first quarter, until Tony Lillard and Derksen found their rhythm simultaneously for Amphi. Lillard put the Panthers up one after hitting from the free-throw line, and followed up with a steal and assist to Derksen, forcing a CDO timeout.
The timeout didn’t cool down Derksen, who finished the quarter with five more consecutive points to give Amphi a 16-10 lead.
“They have a lot of firepower,” said CDO coach, Jon Kimberlin. “We were just trying to slow them down.”
The Dorados managed to do that in the second, with Hughes and Ty Ochse combining for 13 points to close the deficit to 30-26 going into halftime.
“We did a good job defensively, but when we got sloppy, CDO did a good job of capitalizing on that,” said Amphi coach Benjamin Hurley.
CDO’s Erik Espinosa kept the Dorados in contention in the third, finishing the quarter with six points. The Dorados grabbed a one-point lead late in the third, but Lillard continued to find space in the lane and finished the quarter with five consecutive points to maintain the Amphi lead, 46-43 going into the fourth.
Espinosa continued his run in the fourth, coming up with a steal and six points. Unfortunately for CDO, Espinosa fouled out with two minutes left in the game.
“Even when our big fouled out, we still played hard until the end of the game,” said Kimberlin. “We were fortunate to have found enough momentum at that point to close the gap.”
Down by three, CDO’s Johnny Black found good look from behind the arc, and sent the crowd into an eruption when he nailed the three-pointer to tie the game with 25 seconds on the clock.
A blocking foul on CDO sent Derksen to the line, where he converted one of two to return the advantage to Amphi with 21 seconds remaining.
The Dorados paced the clock, and found Ochse going hard to the basket. His shot fell short, but the whistle sounded for the foul with only two seconds remaining. The crowd went into hysteria as Ochse hit the first of two to tie the game at 59.
Ochse’s second free-throw fell short, but CDO’s John Jackson nearly managed to seal the victory when he stole the inbound pass and put up a shot. His shot rattled off the rim, and Ochse rebounded the shot and laid the ball in the basket- about a half-second too late.
Derksen would prove too much for the Dorados in overtime, coming up with six points and a steal to seal the game at 72-63 in Amphi’s favor.
“CDO fought hard,” said Hurley. “Hats off to our guys that we made it to overtime. We finally woke up and said enough, and we took care of business.”
Kimberlin said the plan implemented at halftime worked well for CDO in the third and fourth, but going into overtime, they were faced with a big challenge.
“We did a good job of settling down,” he said. “We started being patient and getting the shots we wanted. Going into overtime, with Erik fouled out, we were pretty undersized, and Amphi’s experience took over.”
With only two games remaining in their regular season, CDO needed a win over a tough Ironwood Ridge team on Feb. 1 to maintain any hope of qualifying for the state tournament. Unfortunately for the Dorados, they fell to Ironwood, 65-39. Still, the Dorados finished their regular season on a high note, pulling out a 58-47 win over Marana on Feb. 3.
Amphi finished the regular season with a 79-14 win over Pusch Ridge on Feb. 2. The team will enter the state tournament with a 15-1 league record.