Ironwood senior forward David Teibo's return to the Centennial gym ended with a dream scenario.
In the final 20 seconds, Teibo cut to the basket took a pass and slammed down a two-handed dunk to punctuate the Eagles' 69-55 victory.
"The dunk was just icing on a cake and a huge blessing and I was happy I could end like that. I knew the crowd would be tough so I had to keep my mind straight and thank my family, coaches, and teammates for talking to me to control my emotions and ignoring the crowd and then just coming out and winning the game," Teibo said.
The meeting of the rival schools less than four miles apart led to a packed house, and the Centennial portion of the crowd was less than thrilled.
"He's a better man than I am. He handled that a lot better than I would have. I don't know how I would handle a crowd of people saying my name and saying 'David sucks,' and all that. Ultimately he handled all of that really well. That's a tough 18-year-old kid. As good as he is in basketball he's going to be a phenomenal human being that makes a difference in this world." Ironwood coach Jordan Augustine said.
Teibo finished the game with 15 points and six rebounds and his team won by 14, but his night and his team's night were not as easy as the box score suggests.
A young Centennial team ranked #20 in 5A coming in leadr #3 Ironwood for most of the first half, going up 18-10 before the visitors began to creep back in it.
Fueled by stingy defense, offensive rebounding and the offensive burst from sophomore wings Jake Lifgren and Jayson Petty - both scored 11 points in the first half - the Coyotes took a 28-27 lead into the break.
"Honestly, Randy (Lavender) had their guys really well prepared. They were trying to limit the number of possessions and even when we got stops we weren't finishing with the basketball," Augustine said. "Part of the problem was that we couldn't press earlier because our guards were in foul trouble. We had to wait until the second half and we felt if we could get our guys to the second half with two fouls, we could press and force the tempo."
Augustine proved prophetic as Ironwood (22-2 regular season, 15-1 regular season) started forcing turnovers and picking Centennial apart once the second half began.
Senior guard Domininc Gonzalez scored seven points and junior guard Bailon Black added five as the Eagles turned a one-point deficit into an 11-point lead in less than three minutes.
Centennial (15-9, 8-7) did not panic after falling behind 44-32. Petty scored five points and Lifgren added four to cut the home team's deficit to three as the third quarter ended.
Petty led all players with 23 points and nine rebounds. Lifgren finished with 18.
Ironwood senior guard Trent Hudgens took over the fourth quarter, pouring in nine of his team-high 18 points.
"Honestly, everyone had their moments. Trent is a phenomal basketball player and he is growing into a phenomenal leader. He makes me look a lot smarter than I am. I put the ball in his hands and tell him, 'Go make a play,' and he does," Augustine said.
Now leading the Northwest Region, the Eagles have something every other team in the brutal league longs for - a break. Ironwood soes not play for a week, visiting Apollo on Feb. 7.
Ironwood is atop the Northwest at 7-1. To provide an idea of the region's depth, Centennial is in fifth place at 2-5, and is 13-4 in non-region games. That's without star sophomore Trent Lavender, who injured his knee earlier in the season.
"We get a bit of time which in this region is much needed. (Centennial) is missing their best player and it was a game because they are well-coached and compete at a high level. I'm going to enjoy giving my guys the first day off they've had all year," Augustine said.
If his team continues playing this way, that season will not end until March 2, on the Desert Financial Arena floor at ASU. to
"Being part of Ironwood is amazing and I’m proud of the decision I made. Every day I get better not only as a basketball player but as a man who is getting ready for the real life. My teammates and coaches push me every day and help me when I need someone to talk to. They have truly been a family for me. I pray we end up winning state," Teibo said.