Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: The Fort Thomas Apaches move onto the state basketball quarterfinals with a 61-54 victory over Williams on Friday.
The Fort to play No. 1 Rock Point in quarterfinals
By Jon Johnson
FORT THOMAS – The No. 4 Fort Thomas Apaches girls basketball team is headed to Prescott for a date with the No. 1 Rock Point Cougars on Friday, Feb. 17, at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott. Get tickets here.
The Fort (8-2 1A Copper, 27-6 overall) outlasted the Williams Vikings (10-0 1A Canyon, 21-7 overall) in a quarterfinal matchup at Fort Thomas High School on Friday night, 61-54.
“(It was a) super exciting game (between) two good quality teams,” said Fort Thomas head coach Lee Haws. “We made a run in the fourth quarter . . . just off of effort and that’s how you beat other good teams. It’s going to come down to attitude and effort and we had good attitude and effort tonight.”
It was a tight, back-and-forth game throughout until Fort Thomas freshman Kaylee Benally came alive in the fourth period and decided to take over.
Down 45-46 with just over 6 minutes left to play, Benally scored and was fouled for an and-1, 3-point play. The score put The Fort up 48-46 and they wouldn’t look back.
After a couple of Jayla Wilson free throws, Tyesha Wilson found Benally for the fast-break layup, and the lead was stretched to 52-46.
After another free throw, Shoogie Bryce found Benally on an inbound play and she put it home to make it 55-46 with 3:15 to play.
To cap off her night, Benally then recovered a loose ball while on help defense and took it the length of the court for the score.
“Tyesha Wilson shot the heck out of the ball,” Haws said. “We had a good job coming from our point guard Jayla Wilson. Shoogie Bryce killed it on rebounds Elly kept playing hard defense and then our freshman, number 33, going to the rim and she did a great job.”
Tyesha Wilson led the Apaches with 25 points and shot five 3-pointers. She also had several assists and had a lot of ball-handling duties as well.
Alleenna Gilbert had a big night for The Fort as well and finished with 14 points and Jayla Wilson had 11.
Williams relied heavily on its two stars, Kadance Orozco and Kai Mortensen, and they didn’t disappoint with 25 and 22 points, respectively.
Orozco went off in the first period with 13 and three 3-pointers, including one at the buzzer to give Williams the early 18-14 lead after one.
Fort Thomas came back slightly in the second, but points were rare and Williams still led at the half, 28-25.
In the third, whenever Fort Thomas scored Mortensen would answer with another big 3-pointer. But The Fort said two can play at that game, and Tyesha Wilson did their answering from deep in the second half.
In the end, Williams head coach Phillip Echeverria pointed to fatigue in keeping up with the Apaches as the deciding factor in the game.
“Overall, we just kind of run out of gas a little bit,” Echeverria said. “And that’s trouble when you meet up against a good team like Fort Thomas when they’re subbing girls in and out and trying to keep track of everybody. But, overall, I’m proud of the girls. It’s something for the younger girls to look at and say, ‘hey, I can do this too.’ So, we’re proud of them.”
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