Canyon Springs’ Trey Evans was giving up 9 inches to 6-foot-8-inch Augy French.
But a drill called “Battle” prepared the senior guard to make the biggest play of the game Thursday.
With his team trailing by one point, Evans came up with an offensive rebound in a battle with Foothill’s French and banked home the winning shot as time expired as the Pioneers escaped with a 69-68 victory in the Sunrise Region semifinals at Foothill.
“Every day in practice we do a drill called ‘Battle,’ ” Evans said. “That’s when we go up and get the rebound. It’s big vs. little, little vs. big every day. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog. I take that mentality with me.”
The Pioneers (26-2) play Eldorado (23-6) in the title game at 7 tonight at Foothill. The winner of that game advances to next week’s Class 4A state tournament at the Orleans Arena. The loser plays the Sunset Region runner-up for the final berth at state.
Evans had committed a foul trying to fight through a screen with 17.4 seconds left, and Foothill’s Zach Ginter sank both free throws to give the Falcons (21-8) a 68-67 lead.
The Pioneers called timeout and set up a play for Boise State signee Michael Thompson.
Thompson took the ball near the top of the key and dribbled to the left elbow, but his jumper rimmed off. That’s when Evans saved the team’s season.
“When the ball came down, it was me and Augy going up for the ball,” Evans said. “And I just outrebounded him and put it up.”
Canyon Springs coach Daryl Branham wasn’t surprised to see his sixth man come up with a season-saving play.
“One of the reasons Trey’s always on the floor is he works so hard rebounding,” Branham said. “He has a nose for the ball and his motor never stops and he’s always going. He always comes up with big plays.”
Canyon Springs struggled in the first half against Foothill’s 2-3 zone.
The Falcons led 12-2 before Canyon Springs fought back with its full-court pressure. The Pioneers scored 13 points off 15 Foothill turnovers in the first half but usually ended up firing up a 3-pointer when in the half-court offense.
Canyon Springs was 0-for-12 on 3-pointers in the first half, and the game was tied at 34 at the break.
“We knew that they were going to come out in a zone, and we told them you have to attack the basket,” Branham said. “And when we did attack the basket, we went to the free-throw line.”
The Pioneers had little answer for French when the Falcons got the ball to him in the post. He finished with 19 points and seven rebounds.
His post bucket with 37 seconds left cut Canyon Springs’ lead to 67-66. After Thompson was called for traveling, Ginter hit the two free throws to give the Falcons their first lead since 5:18 remained in the third quarter.
Thompson had 21 points to lead the Pioneers. Jared Brandon added 19 points and six rebounds and teammate Chris Willis had 15 points and six boards for Canyon Springs.
■ Eldorado 73, Coronado 59 — DaQuon Thrower had 18 points as the Sundevils never trailed in the other semifinal.
Eldorado forced 13 first-half turnovers and held the Cougars (23-7) to 7-for-37 shooting in the first half as the Sundevils took a 40-19 halftime lead and cruised to the win.
“We focus on our defensive efforts and we play hard defensively,” Eldorado coach Mike Uzan said. “That’s kind of like the honor of our squad.”
The Sundevils held Coronado’s leading scorer, Austin Nelson, to 1-for-13 shooting, including 0-for-9 on 3-pointers. The Cougars were just 3-for-21 on 3-pointers as a team.
“Austin’s good. We saw him play, and he can light it up,” Uzan said. “We made sure to keep a body in his direction and made sure we had a hand up and extended our zone on his side because the kid can shoot.”
Julian Jacobs added 15 points and six rebounds for Eldorado, and teammate Curtis Stewart had 13 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Michael Louder led Coronado with 20 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots.
Contact prep sports editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4587.In-depth high school sports coverage