Apaches capture 1A Copper/East Super Regional Championship

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The No. 4 Fort Thomas Apaches girls basketball team defeated the No. 2 Joseph City Wildcats to capture the 1A East/Copper Girls Basketball Super Regional Tournament on Saturday, 37-33.

By Jon Johnson


FORT THOMAS – The No. 4 Fort Thomas Apaches girls basketball team held off the No. 2 Joseph City Wildcats 37-33 on Saturday to capture the 1A East/Copper Girls Basketball Super Regional Tournament. 

“It was a good, quality game win or lose,” said Fort Thomas head basketball coach Lee Haws. “It feels good. We kind of split. We beat them in a tournament and they beat us in the regular season and we beat them here. I’m happy for the girls that they won kind of an ugly offensive game.” 

The No. 4 Apaches (8-2 1A Copper, 25-6 overall) advanced to the championship game by defeating Cicero Prep 62-7 in Round 1 on Feb. 2 and Lincoln Prep 52-32 in the semifinals on Friday night.

The Fort will next host Round 1 of the 1A Girls State Championship Playoffs against the No. 13 Dishchii’bikoh Wildcats (4-6 1A Copper, 7-12 overall) on Tuesday, Feb. 7, starting at 7 p.m. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Tyesha Wilson drive on Joseph City. Wilson finished with a game-high 15 points.

The Apaches will attempt to dispatch the Wildcats for the third time this year, previously winning 63-39 on Jan. 5, and a squeaker 45-44 in the last regular-season game on Jan. 31. 

No. 2 Joseph City will host a Round 1 game as well on Tuesday against the No. 15 Duncan Wildkats (4-2 1A Tucson Southeast, 12-15 overall), starting at 7 p.m. 

Fort Thomas 37 – Joseph City 33

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Jayla Wilson drives between two defenders.

The Apaches’ defense sealed the deal for the Apaches in the fourth quarter by not allowing Joseph City to score for the final 4:23 of the game. 

Tyesha Wilson led the way offensively for the Apaches with 15 points, including two from deep. Fort Thomas was deadly from beyond the arc with five made 3’s in a defensive game. Other scorers included Alleenna Gilbert with 10, Kaylee Benally with 7, Haleigh Kitcheyan with 3, and Shoogie Bryce with 2.  

April Neill was Wilson’s counter for the Wildcats, and she scored a team-high 13 points to lead Joseph City. Other scorers included Kadence Armstrong with 7, Kate Edwards and Abigayle Smith with 4 each, Brenlee Hutchens with 3, and Gabrielle Jesmer with 2.    

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas Apaches head girls basketball coach Lee Haws provides instruction.

Both teams started off hot but cooled quickly. The Fort popped out to an early 10-6 lead behind first-period 3’s from Wilson and Benally, but Joseph City went on a 6-0 run to end the period up 12-10. 

The teams went back and forth throughout the second period, with Wilson hitting another big 3-pointer with about 20 seconds left in the half to propel Fort Thomas to a 22-18 halftime lead. 

It was more trench warfare in the third as neither side would give an inch with two ties and two lead changes in the period to leave them stalemated at 28 apiece at the end of three, leaving the fourth to decide the outcome. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Shoogie Bryce makes her way down the court to the delight of the cheerleaders.

In the fourth, the Apaches’ defense intensified and after Neill hit a 3-pointer with about 4:23 left Fort Thomas would allow the Wildcats to score no more. The shot was the only made field goal in the period by Joseph City, who also had a couple of free throws by Gabrielle Jesmer.

The Apaches had some home-court help, especially in the fourth when the crowd – which was engaged and loud throughout the game – really pumped up the volume in cheering for their team.

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