Coolidge, which had battled off-court adversity since the beginning of the school year, overcame a three-point deficit in the final 25 seconds yesterday to defeat Gonzaga, 62-61, and win its first City Championship game, before 8,900 at Cole Field House.
Derrick Davis, who led Coolidge (26-5) with 17 points, pulled up on the run and made a 12-foot jumper from the left side with five seconds remaining for the winning points.
Mark Tillmon, whose 26 points and all-around play kept Metro Conference champion Gonzaga (26-3) close throughout the game, had a running 15-foot shot go off the rim as the buzzer sounded. It was Tillmon's miss of the front end of a one-and-one with 15 seconds to go that led to Byron Hawkins' rebound and Davis' basket.
Hawkins' steal had resulted in Carl Weldon's basket with 25 seconds remaining.
This end was just as unpredictable as the rest of the season for Coolidge, which entered the game ranked No. 3. The Colts, who won 21 of their last 23, found out at the beginning of the school year that potential all-America David Butler was academically ineligible. They also had to deal with the trauma of the shooting death of expected key performer Andre Jackson in the fall.
Davis showed no hesitation in taking his winning shot. "I was just concentrating on scoring," he said. "I didn't see anyone else -- I knew I was open and just pulled up.
"This was a win for our coach [Frank Williams] because he has coached a long time and not won anything before, but it really was for Andre. We all had a little bit of Andre in us. That is all we have been thinking about all year; we did it for him."
Coolidge's defensive pressure and inside strength enabled it to lead throughout most of the first three quarters. Forward Everett Robinson, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds, converted three of the seven offensive rebounds the Colts turned into baskets.
The Colts' 2-3 zone was shattered by Tillmon, who made seven of eight first-half shots. But the Eagles, who lost in their only previous city title game appearance in 1957, showed little other offense, and committed 12 turnovers, to trail, 35-29, at the half.
Coolidge, which committed only three turnovers in the first half, had seven in the third quarter, allowing the Eagles to take a 47-46 lead as Jacob Morton converted a four-point play. He tipped in a missed shot and, on a controversial ruling, was determined to have been fouled after the shot, allowing him to add two free throws.
The lead changed several times in the fourth quarter, but Tillmon's jumper over Davis with 1:11 to go gave Gonzaga a 61-58 lead. The Eagles had trouble controlling the ball as they attempted to kill the clock, but still appeared in good shape when Tillmon, who previously had made seven of eight free throws, went to the line with the 61-60 lead.
"I should have made the two free throws," said Tillmon. "But what hurt the most were turnovers. You can't win big games by making turnovers in crucial situations. I just don't know what happened to us."
Neither did some of the Colts.
"I thought it was over when Tillmon went to the line," said Robinson.
Williams, who never before had won an Interhigh League title in his 14 years of coaching, hadn't expected his team to reach this point.
"It took us quite some time to get over the fact that we would be without David and Andre," said Williams. "I never thought we could get this far without them. That is why I never gave up even when Tillmon went to the line."
In the preliminary game, Mark Scott's only basket -- an eight-footer from the right side with 12 seconds remaining -- enabled Interhigh runner-up Dunbar (24-4) to defeat Metro runner-up DeMatha (24-6), 62-61.