The last time Coronado met Canyon Springs, the Cougars ran up and down the floor and did whatever it wanted offensively in a 30-point victory last month.
But the second matchup Monday night, in the Class 5A Southern Region tournament quarterfinals, could not have been any different.
Fifth-seeded Canyon Springs slowed the pace and built as much as a 10-point lead before No. 4 Coronado finally got its defense cranked up for some steals that allowed it to get in the open floor. The game went back and forth in the final minutes until Isaac Peralta drove for a layup with 42 seconds left that proved to be the winner in a 57-54 Coronado victory at home.
“We knew going in it wasn’t going to be a 30-point game,” Coronado coach Jeff Kaufman said. “I wanted to go in the locker room and scream at them, ‘You beat them by 30 last time and now you just barely won this game,’ but I didn’t. It was just advance and go on.”
The Cougars (18-9) advance to a road contest against No. 1 seed and nine-time defending state champion Bishop Gorman in regional semifinals. The other semifinal will pit No. 2 Liberty against No. 3 Durango.
In the new 5A, every Southern Region team was scheduled to meet each other once in the regular season. Neither of the semifinal matchups were played during the regular season because they fell during a five-day COVID-19 pause.
“Things kind of always take care of themselves,” Kaufman said. “We didn’t get to play Gorman. Liberty didn’t get to play Durango. So now with the way the basketball gods worked it out, we get those games. I’m just bummed it’s not all in the same place so we can watch the other game.”
Richard Isaacs scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half to lead Coronado. Josiah Cunningham had 12 points and Peralta 10 for the Cougars. Bryant Legardy led Canyon Springs (18-8) with 23 points, and Jaylen Pollard had 10.
Isaacs was particularly successful in helping with the full-court press and half-court trap.
“We had no choice. We had to force them to throw the ball around and get sloppy a little bit,” Kaufman said. “We couldn’t sit back. They started holding the ball in the second quarter, so we had to start getting up in their face.”
Canyon Springs led 49-49 in the fourth quarter when the Cougar pressure finally began to take its toll. Isaacs made a driving layup and 3-pointer in a 10-0 run that was capped by a Peralta three-point play that tied the score with 3:06 remaining.
After Peralta’s go-head layup with 42 seconds left, Isaacs made two free throws. Canyon Springs had one more chance, but it was a clunky possession in the final seven seconds. Legardy’s heave from about 30 feet hit the backboard but was well off the mark.
“We played tight in the beginning like we had something to lose and not to just go win the game,” Kaufman said. “Then in the fourth quarter, we started getting steals and they started holding the basketball and playing not to lose.”
Jason Orts can be reached at email@example.com