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Jose Garcia

Multimedia Journalist/Historian

Amphi buzzer beater helps upset Copper Canyon

Feb 15, 2013

It wasn’t by design, but one of the few players who wasn’t injured this season for Tucson Amphitheater, Yusuf Shehata, received the inbounds pass on the final play.

The junior guard sure looked spry as he dribbled the length of the court, completing his mad dash in just under 5.9 seconds. But more importantly, Shehata’s layup went in as the buzzer sounded to stun favorite Glendale Copper Canyon 66-64 and send Amphitheater to the second round of the Division II boys state tournament.

With its previous three seasons ending with state championship appearances, Amphitheater has grown accustomed to dramatic playoff endings. But after losing key starters from last year’s team, this year’s Amphitheater squad has had to fight its way to victories during an injury plagued season.

Thursday’s road victory was a microcosm of the Tucson team’s season (17-12 record).

“We persevered and believed in each other,” Amphitheater coach Ben Hurley said.

Hurley’s No. 19 seeded team trailed by as many as 16 points twice in the first quarter, when No. 14 seed Copper Canyon’s long arms helped convert 10 of 12 field goal attempts in that quarter.

But Amphitheater then switched from a zone press to a man press, which helped the squad get back in the game and hold Copper Canyon to just two field goals in the second quarter. Grabbing offensive rebounds also kept Amphitheater in the game.

In the third quarter, Amphitheater kept the momentum rolling, taking its first lead, 35-33, after a put back by its tallest player, Donald Selig (6-7), with 4:27 remaining in the quarter. Amphitheater seemed to grab control of the game after building a 11-point lead (49-38), but Copper Canyon rallied by attacking the basket every chance it could behind the play of senior guard Rayvon Johnson (27 points).

With 5.9 seconds remaining in the game, Johnson went to the free throw line with Copper Canyon trailing 64-62. But Johnson hit both of his free throws, setting up the final play of the game.

Amphitheater decided not to call its final timeout after the free throws so that Copper Canyon (22-9) couldn’t set up defensively. Jose Mata inbounded the ball to Shehata, who took care of the rest, beating his man off the dribble at half court before beating another man on his way to the basket.

“It’s one of the top feelings in my life,” Shehata said.

Amphitheater has a deep bench and matches up well against one of D-II’s favorites, defensive minded No. 3 seed Phoenix Sierra Linda, the team Amphitheater will face on Saturday in another playoff road test.