The undefeated Badgers were in serious trouble.
A few months earlier, the defending city champions had begun their season slowly, in part because their star center, Ray Kosanke, was injured. In one of their first games, they nipped Rincon by only seven points--but after Kosanke returned, the Badgers began to roll. They clobbered Salpointe by 27, routed Amphitheater by 52 and beat Rincon in a rematch, 73-51.
Facing Scottsdale Arcadia in an early-round state-tournament game, the Badgers won, 58-52. They also had their hands full against Phoenix Washington, finally prevailing by two.
That victory set up the semifinal game against Central, to be played in Tempe.
Despite being behind by 13 points to Central at halftime, coach Tony Morales remained upbeat. "As soon as Ray Kosanke got up in the air," he told the Tucson Daily Citizen later, "and Leroy Taylor started getting position on the boards, I knew we had a chance."
Joining the 6-foot-9 Kosanke and 6-foot-5 Taylor on the front line was 6-foot-4 Mike Aboud. Jess Peoples and Chester Willis anchored the backcourt for the Badgers.
After halftime, Tucson came storming back. They outscored their opponents by 11 in the third period and finally tied the game at 42 midway through the fourth quarter, on a basket by Kosanke which rattled around the rim before dropping in.
The heart-pounding game stayed close and was tied when Willis hit a long jumper with less than two minutes remaining. Taylor later put in a missed shot by Kosanke, and Tucson had its 54-52 victory.
The Badgers' reward for that comeback triumph was a date with also-undefeated Flagstaff in the championship game. The Eagles averaged more than 70 points a contest, and the two teams had combined for 43 victories without a loss.
The first quarter of the finals was tight, but Tucson pulled out to a five-point halftime lead. They extended it to nine at the end of the third quarter--but then Peoples fouled out.
"A couple of bad passes, two missed free throws, and we were in trouble there," Morales said about the fourth quarter. But with Kosanke finishing with 28 points, the Badgers ultimately prevailed, 54-52, becoming the first Tucson state 5A champion in 13 years.
"A bad night on offense can be forgiven," Morales said about his team's winning effort, "but nobody should ever have a bad night on defense."