Contributed Photo/Courtesy JR Olivar: The Fort Thomas Apaches are the 1A State Girls Basketball Champions after dismantling the Mogollon Mustangs, 56-29.
Fort Thomas brings home the gold basketball in girls 1A
By Jon Johnson
MESA – The Fort Thomas Apaches are your 2021 1A Girls Basketball Champions after blowing out the Mogollon Mustangs on Tuesday night, 56-29. It is the school’s first championship in girl’s basketball since 2006.
The Lee Haws-coached No. 2-ranked Fort Thomas Apaches became the No. 1 team in the state by defeating the No. 5-ranked Mogollon Mustangs at Dobson High School in Mesa in the 1A Girls State Basketball Championship game.
Fort Thomas led by a large margin from early on in the game as Mogollon couldn’t slow down the offensive juggernaut that is the Fort Thomas Apaches playing an up-tempo game against the full-court press from the Mustangs.
Fort Thomas and Mogollon are both in the 1A North East Region but only played each other once in the regular season, with the Apaches taking the game, 55-44, back on Feb. 26 at home.
Three of the four final teams all came from the 1A North East Region, which Fort Thomas won by going undefeated in the region (4-0) on its way to a 20-2 season.
The Mustangs broke the ice with a free throw for a quick 1-0 lead, but the Apaches’ 3-2 zone defense gave them fits and Mogollon had trouble putting the ball in the hole. Fort Thomas then went for 5 straight to take the early 5-1 lead. After Mogollon hit a 3-pointer to narrow the deficit, Fort Thomas railed off two more field goals to go up 9-4 halfway through the first quarter.
Mogollon then hit another 3-pointer and two more field goals to knot the game up 9-9 with about two minutes left in the first quarter.
Fort Thomas then went on a 6-0 run to end the first quarter up 15-9.
Mogollon had no answer for Fort Thomas’ freshman sensation Jasmine Olivar, who added to her 4 first-quarter points with 7 in the second as Fort Thomas increased its lead to double up Mogollon, 22-11.
The offense ran through Olivar, with handoffs and screens designed to get her open for mid-range jump shots and good looks at the rim. She ended up leading the Apaches with 19 points for the game.
Fort Thomas kept the pace throughout the second and led 32-16 with about two minutes left in the half after another bucket by Olivar.
While field goals were hard to come by against Fort Thomas’ defense, Mogollon was in the bonus late in the second quarter due to a number of fouls made by the Fort and the Mustangs made hay from the charity stripe. However, they couldn’t stop the Olivar and Apaches from scoring, and Fort Thomas took a 14-point lead into halftime, 34-20.
Fouls started affecting the Apaches in the third when Kyia Haws recorded her third foul and had to check out of the game. Just like the start of the game, Mogollon opened the scoring with a foul shot, however, Olivar came back with a 3-pointer to extend the Apaches’ lead, 38-21.
Haws then came back into the game and made her presence felt down low, getting her own rebound and putting it back. The gamble of returning her to action turned sour just a couple of turns down the court, however, as she was called for her fourth foul and had to sit again.
Sophomore Aleenna Gilbert came in for Haws and the Apaches didn’t miss a beat as she stepped up to the moment and hit a quick 2.
Junior Hailey Hinton then hit a big 3-pointer to push Fort Thomas’ lead to 23 points. Gilbert hit her third field goal in the quarter and Fort Thomas ran Mogollon down the court on its way to a 47-23 lead at the end of the third quarter.
It was more of the same in the fourth as Olivar tried to do a 3-point play the old-fashioned way with a foul and the bucket. Olivar missed the free-throw but grabbed a rebound from a missed teammate’s shot and put it in to score 4 points on the possession.
Hinton then hit her second 3-pointer of the game and it was simply academic at that point as the Apaches went on a 9-0 run to amass an unsurmountable lead, 56-23 with 2:40 left in the game, and the faithful in the crowd began celebrating. At that point, Haws emptied his bench and allowed the reserves to enjoy playing in the championship game as well.
Mogollon hit a meaningless shot at the end of the game as Fort Thomas ran away with it, 56-29.
Road to the Championship
Fort Thomas held home court for its first two playoff games, defeating No. 15 Salome 54-21 on March 6 and fending off a tough No. 7 St. David team 56-46 on March 10.
The Apaches then traveled to Coronado High School in Scottsdale and defeated No. 3 St. Michael 51-36 in the semifinal.
Mogollon won its home playoff opener 52-20 over No. 12 Desert Christian and then went on the road to upset No. 4 Williams 73-62 and No. 1 Leading Edge Academy 52-49, also at Coronado High School.