Foothill’s Greg Cox missed his final six 3-point attempts of the first half on Thursday.
But instead of declining open looks in the second half, the senior guard took advantage of his opportunities.
Cox hit a pair of key 3-pointers to ignite a comeback as the Falcons rallied from a 19-12 halftime deficit to beat Canyon Springs 56-48 in the semifinals of Class 4A Sunrise Region boys basketball tournament at Foothill.
“I’ve been through slumps before throughout my high school career, so I knew how to handle it,” said Cox, who was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers in the second half. “I know if I’m going to get down on myself, I’m not going to make the next one, so I might as well forget it and move on to that next shot.”
Foothill (17-11) hosts Green Valley (16-12) in the title game at 7 tonight, with the winner advancing to next week’s state tournament in Reno.
Cox hit his first 3-pointer with 5:29 to go in the third quarter to cut the Pioneers’ lead to 23-17. Foothill immediately forced a turnover, and Cox hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 23-20.
Then came the play that energized Foothill and the crowd when Darren Buckles dunked over Canyon Springs’ Gerad Davis with 4:14 to go in the third.
Buckles couldn’t complete the three-point play, but Taylor Montgomery got the rebound and made a layup to make it 24-23, the Falcons’ first lead since the opening quarter.
“When Darren Buckles got that dunk, that really fired me up, too,” Cox said. “Our confidence was out of the gym.”
The game was tied at 31 heading into the fourth quarter, but Buckles hit a pair of free throws with 5:04 to play to put Foothill ahead, 35-34. Cox hit a 3-pointer from the left corner on the next possession as part of a 14-3 run that gave the Falcons control.
Cox finished with 16 points, 11 in the second half.
“He’s one of our best shooters,” Foothill coach Kevin Soares said. “You can’t have your best shooter out there being timid and not taking shots. You can’t come back that way. All I know with him is if he gets one going, he might roll off four or five.”
Once Foothill got the lead, the Falcons sealed it at the line, making 15 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Elijah Smith, who sometimes struggles at the free-throw line, made 11 of 12 in the fourth quarter for all of his points.
“He’s the son of Robert Smith, who’s the all-time leading free-throw shooter at UNLV, so it’s got to be in his blood,” Soares said.
Smith added nine rebounds, four assists and four steals for the Falcons, who held a 37-25 edge on the boards.
The Falcons were 4-for-29 from the field (13.8 percent) in the first half. They went 12-for-20 after halftime.
“If we didn’t come out confident and hung our heads, nothing would have happened,” Cox said. “We had to be positive about it and come out fresh.”
Brannon Cresanto added 10 points for Foothill, which lost 69-68 to Canyon Springs in last year’s Sunrise semifinals.
Davis led Canyon Springs (18-10) with 15 points and four blocked shots, and Shaquille Carr scored 13 for the Pioneers.
Green Valley 72, Valley 54 — Devan Kohn had 34 points and 11 rebounds as the Gators ousted the Vikings (22-7).
“We left it on the court tonight. We didn’t want to leave anything to chance,” Green Valley coach Lorenzo Jarvis said.
Brandon Hoisington added 16 points and 10 rebounds, combining with Kohn to give the Gators the advantage inside.
“Brandon Hoisington stepped up and played a man’s game tonight,” Jarvis said. “He played ridiculous in the middle for us. Devan Kohn had another amazing game. Every one of the kids out there played great.”
Green Valley did a good job taking care of the basketball, turning the ball over only 10 times.
“That was our biggest concern going into the game,” Jarvis said. “We’ve been working on it in practice. All we wanted to do was control our tempo. We’re not going to allow anyone to dictate how we’re going to play.”
Daniel Young had 10 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots, and Ryan Johnson scored 17 for Valley.