Tony Warburton and the Mayer boys basketball team accomplished what they set out to do this season by making it to the Class 1A state tournament.
Still, he and his teammates were far from satisfied after their first-round matchup with 2009 state runner up Elfrida Valley Union.
Warburton led West Region No. 3 Mayer with 18 points, including four 3-pointers, but the Wildcats couldn't handle a late-game flurry by the South Region's No. 2 seed and fell 78-62 at Bradshaw Mountain High School Friday.
"Our goal from the beginning of the season was just to get back to the state playoffs," said Warburton, whose two straight first-quarter 3-pointers ended a 9-2 Blue Devil run to start the game. "So we made out team goal, but we wish we could have gone a little bit further."
Alex Sapien also made four 3s and finished with 17 points in the loss to go along with seven rebounds.
Wildcats teammate Blake Ambrose had 10 points, two rebounds and blocked two shots.Jacob Martinez finished with nine points, five rebounds and three steals.
Dimitri Campbell added eight rebounds and four points.
Valley Union was led in scoring by Jose Gamez with 19 points.
Austin Leinen had 15 points off the bench and Saul Mancinas had 14 points and blocked four shots.
Thanks to a quick start, the Blue Devils were able to build a 32-15 lead with 2:14 left in the second quarter.
Valley Union turned the ball over on its next three possessions and Sapien made them pay with a mid-range jumper followed by a 3-pointer from the left corner and the Wildcats went into the break down 32-20.
Valley Union looked to be back in charge to start the third as Gamez scored down low and from beyond the arc on consecutive possessions to once again give Valley Union a 17-point cushion.
Warburton and Mancinas then traded 3s before Mayer made its move.
The Wildcats, who turned up the heat on the defensive end and attacked the rim at every opportunity, rattled off a 9-0 run without making a field goal over the next 1:29 to make it a three-possession game at 40-32.
"I kinda challenged them. I said we're going to have make a push because if we don't, we're not going to have a chance," Mayer coach Roland Medina said.
Gamez sparked a 7-3 mini run over the next 2:37 and the Blue Devils were able to regain the momentum.
That didn't last, though, as the Wildcats stormed back to end the third.
Sapien drained a 3-pointer from the left wing, then hit a pair of free throws on Mayer's next touch.
Martinez then made it a two-possession game when he swiped a lazy pass near mid-court, than drove the rest of the way for an uncontested layup with four seconds left.
"Mayer has no quit in them," Valley Union coach John Batty said. "They were just going to keep coming."
The Wildcats were able to keep it close until midway through the quarter when the Leinen scored nine points in an 11-2 run capped by a three-point play with less than a minute left to give the Blue Devils a 70-56 lead.
"We didn't give up. We played as hard as we could," Warburton said.