Corona del Sol has had a few freshmen in recent years make an impact in its boys basketball program. Calaen Robinson was one iin 2009 as a starte in late December. Casey Benson comes to mind in 2011 as a starter from the get-go. Cassius Peat in 2012 as a 6th-7th man. It's fair to say Alex Barcello can be added to that list this season.
Barcello came off the bench Tuesday nightin his now customary role to score 13 points, hand out four assists and collect two steals as the Aztecs rallied for a 76-68 victory over Mesa Mountain View in the final game of the 2013 VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge at Mountain View High School.
"We call Alex and Cassius (Peat) our sixth and seventh starters," Corona del Sol coach Sammy Duane Jr. said. "When they come in they give us instant energy. They make us better, not because they're better than the starters they just give us fresh, solid players. With Alex, there's a reason he's playing on this team. He can contribute." Barcello scored in double figures off the bench in the final four games of five Corona played in the tournament. Averaging right about 13 in those contests.
Corona del Sol (13-0), the two-time defending D-I state champs, was in danger of absorbing its first loss of the season in the first half. Mountain View (11-3) came out firing from three-point range, connecting on eight threes in building as much as an eight-point lead (22-14). By intermission Corona was still on the short end of a 37-34 score.
Barcello made his appearance about midway through the first half and promptly scored nine points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field. His offense and ball-handling offset a tough first half for Benson, who finished the first 16 minutes with five points and 2-of-9 shooting from the field. Mountain View's 8-2 edge in three-point shots made in the opening half was reason the Toros led.
"We told our guys at halftime we needed to pay more attention to the outside shooting and we could weather the storm," Duane Jr. said.
Benson picked up his game in the second half, finishing with 18 points. The Aztecs got solid games offensivelyas well from Dane Kuiper (game-high 20 points) and 15 points from Connor MacDougall. Corona took the lead for good in the second half with just less than 11 minutes left on Benson's lone 3 of the game. Another basket by Benson and a 12-foot jumper from Barcello bumped the lead to five. Corona led by as many as eight with 7 1/2 minutes left (57-50). Kuiper and Benson were named to the all-tourament team for Corona.
That's when Mountain View began a rally of its own that pared the lead to 67-64 with two minutes left on a three-point play by Andy Sessions. Kuiper, Benson and Jarrett Givens combined for seven free throws down the stretch. The Toros got not closer than four to the finish.
Mountain View made only one three in the second half and didn't shoot nearly as well as the first half, which saw it hit 55 percent of its shots. Sessions led Mountain View with 19 points, Austin Denham contributed 15, Josh Bribiescas hit for 14 off the bench and Colton Meo chipped in 11. All-tournament team selection Payton Dastrup finished with nine points. Dastrup wasn't involved much in the offense in the opening half, getting only three attempts with the offense clicking from the perimeter. Dastrup didn't score his first point until the 12-minute mark of the second half.