Dane Kuiper and Alex Barcello have wasted no time stepping up their games and roles this summer in preparation for a chance for Corona del Sol to win a fourth consecutive Division I boys basketball title next winter.
Kuiper, a senior and Barcello a sophomore, were virtually unstoppable Saturday in guiding the Aztecs to the championship of the 4th annual PrimeTime Summer Invitational at Tempe High School.
Corona, the defending tournament champion and No. 1 seed, took down No. 5 Pinnacle in the semifinals, 76-43, and followed it with an 82-49 triumph over No. 2 Chaparral in the title game.
“They sacrificed with their roles last year,” Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane Jr. said. “We've turned them loose this year…….We have a lot of talent and they are all great kids and all unselfish.”
Barcello, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, ripped the nets for 15 first-half points in the victory over Pinnacle, including three 3s, as Corona took a 42-17 lead after one half to close out the Pioneers early. Kuiper did much of his damage inside and in transition in the first half scoring all 10 of his points in that span. Kuiper and Barcello played sparingly in the second half. Barcello finished with 17 points.
That brought Chaparral its chance to battle Corona after the Firebirds pulled out a gutty 68-61 win over No. 3 Shadow Mountain in its semifinal. Chaparral built a 17-point lead early in the second half and hung on in the final four minutes behind guards Kenzo Nudo and Brandon Hoffer. Nudo's three-point play with just under four minutes left to play snapped a 52-52 tie. Nudo and Hoffer netted several free throws each down the stretch to thwart Shadow Mountain's comeback bid. Nudo finished with 25 points, Hoffer tossed in 18 and Colton Kresl had 17.
Chaparral's win left it pumped for the championship game, but Corona took the air out of the Firebirds rather quickly. Barcello and Kuiper combined to make their first 13 shots from the field and 17 of 19 in the first half. Barcello canned four 3s and Kuiper sank three 3s. Nudo did his best to keep Chaparral within single digits the first eight or nine minutes. But by halftime Corona produced a remarkable 58-29 advantage. Kuiper scored 21 point in the first half (finished with 27) and Barcello had 20 points at intermission. Corona led 76-33 with 13 minutes left in the game and cleared its bench. Nudo finished with 17 points to lead the Firebirds.
Hoffer, who was able to penetrate Shadow Mountain's interior defense for points or opportunities for teammates had little such luck against Corona with freshman center Marvin Bagley III waiting. Hoffer tallied just five points and was forced often to kick the ball back t. Corona was terrific the entire tournament with an impressive transition game.
Whether or not Barcello's and Kuiper's shots were falling like they did against Chaparral in particular, Corona's opposition can expect to see plenty of shots from the pair in 2014-2015.
“We were both feeling it,” Barcello said of the duo's first-half shotting prowess against Chaparral. “With Casey leaving I have to lead the team, make sure they're in the right spots. I have to make myself improve and at the same time make my teammates better.”
In the other placement games, Shadow Mountain finished third beating Pinnacle, 71-56; Desert Vista, under new coach Tony Darden, took fifth by topping Sunnyslope, 59-57 and Gilbert defeated Tempe High, 44-31, to take seventh.