The improbable became a reality Friday night for Green Valley's boys basketball team.
The Gators, who were 4-11 on Jan. 4, continued their second-half roll, beating host Foothill 70-63 for the Sunrise Region title and punching a ticket for next week's Class 4A state tournament.
"It's really unbelievable," senior guard Durrell McDonald said. "At first we had doubts about even getting into the playoffs. We just said forget this, we're tired of losing and we sucked it up, came here and did what we had to do."
The Gators have won seven consecutive games and 13 of 14 since falling to 4-11.
"We always had the potential, but we just had to play smart," senior forward Devan Kohn said. "And that's what we did tonight.
"This is the best feeling of my life to prove everybody wrong."
The Gators (17-12) fell behind early, but McDonald, who has committed to DePaul, made sure they wouldn't get too far behind.
After Foothill (17-12) took an 18-11 lead, McDonald scored seven points in the final 49 seconds of the first quarter to cut the deficit to 20-18.
McDonald had 18 points in the first half and finished with 32 points and five rebounds.
"He was that leader tonight," Green Valley coach Lorenzo Jarvis said. "That's what your MVP's supposed to do. He stepped up. That's what a captain's supposed to do.
"He played like a man tonight. That was awesome."
The game remained tight through most of the second quarter before Kohn hit a 15-foot jumper to give the Gators a 32-31 lead with 2:46 to go in the half. Green Valley didn't trail again.
Foothill cut the lead to 49-48 on a 3-pointer by Brannon Cresanto with 7:47 left, but the Gators answered with a 7-0 run to retake control.
Green Valley led 61-55 with 1:09 to go when Kohn missed the front end of a one-and-one. But the Falcons air-balled a 3-point attempt and had to foul again. The Gators missed free throws on the next two possessions, but Foothill couldn't take advantage, turning the ball over on both possessions.
Kohn continued his strong play in the postseason, finishing with 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Gators. The 6-foot-4-inch Kohn had 80 points in three playoff games.
"Somebody better jump on board and recruit the kid," Jarvis said. "That kid's a special player, and he's only going to get better. To me, he's a hidden gem. People don't know about him, but they will. They will learn about that kid."
Cresanto led Foothill with 15 points and six rebounds. Tyler Morris had 13 rebounds and Taylor Montgomery 12 for the Falcons, who defeated Green Valley twice during the regular season.
"We had a message this year, and it was state or bust for our whole season," Jarvis said. "I didn't care how slow we started, that's what our motto was this whole year, and we believed in it. And these kids followed through with their dream."
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at email@example.com or 702-380-4587.