Sam Duane, Jr., knows what it’s like to build a high school basketball dynasty and, in the process, put together a record-setting run of consecutive wins. In this case, 70 straight games while head coach at Corona del Sol High School without being beaten by another Arizona team.
Now the new head coach at Perry High School knows what it feels like to be the one to break a streak.
Duane left Corona following the 2014-15 season, after leading the Tempe school to four straight D-I state championships, to take over a solid Perry program that had posted a couple of 20-win seasons before falling off to a 14-10 finish last season.
In this, his debut season, Duane wasn’t able to halt the decline, posting an 11-16 mark as the the regular season closed. But he did accomplish what no other Arizona team has been able to do this year. His Pumas beat Basha High School in Basha’s final regular-season game.
That win, a heart-stopping 59-57 thriller that wasn’t decided until the final seconds, ended Basha’s quest for an undefeated season. The Bears had won 26 games without a misstep, but couldn’t squeeze out that one final win to close out a perfect season.
Basha’s sophomore point guard, Jalen Williams, put up 22 points to lead the attempt at putting away that one final win. But Perry’s 6’4″ senior shooting guard, Terrell Brown, countered with 20 for the Pumas.
For Duane, his new job at Perry represents a radical departure from what he had been used to during his last four years at Corona, during which his teams posted a 127-7 overall record.
But that accomplishment didn’t happen overnight. Duane, whose father also won four titles at Corona over a 10-year period in the 1980’s and early 90’s, spent 12 years building his modern-day dynasty.
At Perry, he knew he had some re-building to do since this year’s team lost a lot of team leadership after graduation took nine seniors.
Basha, on the other hand, kept most of its roster coming into this year, including three starters, and is anchored by eight seniors. This team is highly motivated after winning 23 games the season before and then losing to Mesa High in the state tournament semifinals. The Jackrabbits went on to claim the title that Basha had been eyeing all season long.
This time around, the Bears should be guaranteed a No. 1 seed going into the playoffs next week and have to be considered a favorite to win it all, despite not having the kind of star power some of the other teams will bring into the tourney. They have just two players averaging in doubles figures, Brown (15.3 ppg) and senior post Gabe McGlothan (14.1).
But the Bears play a style of ball that fifth-year head coach Michael Grothaus calls a simple system of winning basketball: defend, rebound, and execute.
Despite the loss in the final game of the season, Basha will be coming into this year’s post-season with a load of confidence.
Perry, on the other hand, wasn’t able to end its season with the euphoria that comes from a major season-defining win over the No. 1 team in the state’s top conference. It still had one game to play.
And that game ended badly for the Pumas, with the Fighting Lobos of La Joya Community tacking an 83-68 loss on the end of the schedule.