Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017 | 9:49 p.m.
It seemed fitting that Coronado High’s 71-59 victory Thursday night against Liberty in the Sunrise Regional basketball semifinals ended like this:
Trey Hurlburt heaved a long pass to a wide-open Will Weems as the final 10 seconds ticked off the clock. Weems, a big-bodied post player Liberty had no answers for all night, threw down a monster two-handed dunk to put an exclamation mark on the win.
Just like that, the defending Sunrise champion Cougars disposed of pesky Liberty, which led after the first quarter and trailed by just six points with 3:32 to play.
They just couldn’t stop the 6-foot-8 Weems, who finished with a game-high 22 points despite battling a leg injury and first-half foul trouble.
“He’s a big, giant body. He is the heart of the team,” Coronado coach Jeff Kaufman said. “He makes us go a little bit.”
Weems scored the initial seven Coronado points and had nine points in the first quarter. But he picked up a second foul in the second quarter, and while reserve Tahj Comeaux was Coronado's best player off the bench with 12 points, Liberty wasn’t afraid to attack the basket with Weems watching from the sideline.
He returned in the third quarter and Coronado immediately put the game out of reach. The Cougars grew their lead to 20 points, using contributions from all players in the rotation to advance to face Foothill at 6 p.m Saturday in the Sunrise championship game at Canyon Springs.
“We are trying to win a state championship,” Weems said. “We had already beat (Liberty) twice, so we had the confidence in the locker room that we could thump them.”
Forward Kennedy Koehler added 18 points for Coronado and was also a matchup problem on the inside. Bryce Savoy added 10 points and Hurlburt had nine.
While Coronado wasn’t at its best, Liberty deserves credit for putting up a fight. Freshman Julian Strawther had 19 points to cap a respectable inaugural varsity season and Dyllan Robinson scored 20.
Coronado will quickly regroup to face Foothill, which it has already beat by 30 and 23 points this season. But, as the Cougars learned tonight against Liberty, it’s tough to defeat a team three times in the same season.
“They know what we do; we know what they do,” Kaufman said of Foothill. “We are going to refocus tomorrow and get ready to play some team basketball against Foothill. We respect what they do.”