Sierra Vista High School honored basketball player Maka Ellis before its game against Durango on Thursday night by retiring his No. 32 jersey.
The senior guard spent the ensuing 90 minutes validating the pregame ceremony at the expense of the visiting Trailblazers.
Ellis finished with 32 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and Sierra Vista overcame a near-fatal meltdown to clinch an 86-83 victory — and the Southwest League’s fourth and final playoff berth.
The Mountain Lions will play Faith Lutheran on Tuesday.
“I’ve been a varsity starter since freshman year,” Ellis said after celebrating with seemingly the entire student body. “This was all about my legacy. I wanted to leave a mark on Sierra Vista and represent Sierra Vista the best I could.”
Guards Anthony Hunter and Nick Blake powered Durango to a 24-7 lead as Ellis missed his first six shots. But the Mountain Lions (12-14, 5-7 Southwest League) regrouped as their standout senior started scoring.
Sierra Vista coach Keith Ulrich said Ellis had a “special performance” and was delighted with the way he attacked the rim and led a surge that gave his team a 15-point fourth-quarter lead.
“For him to come out on senior night and really take over that game when were down 17, it’s a testament to his work ethic,” he said. “He persevered, he kept going, and he was able to get to the basket and finish.”
Sierra Vista struggled to finish, though, and nearly squandered its advantage by missing free throws and turning over the ball in the final two minutes.
Durango (8-12, 4-8) capitalized with several key baskets, but ran out of time to complete the comeback and will miss the playoffs.
Hunter had 32 points, Blake 27.
Jalen McFadden added 17 points for Sierra Vista.
Contact reporter Sam Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.