Fort Thomas boys take East Region title, head to state meet as the top-ranked team

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Top seed Fort Thomas earned the 1A East Region tourney title, defeating Arete Prep 88-40 in the semifinals Feb. 4 and Duncan 67-51 in the final Feb. 7. Members of the team are, not in order, Cameron Anderson, Jeremiah Bullis, Jeconiah Edwards, Brad Johnson, Skylar Kindelay, Charles Kniffin, Stanley Loas, Colby Pino, Jaden Preston, Malachi Rogers, Nikolas Thompson, Latrell Titla, Traymond Titla, Tayshaun Wilson, assistant coach Jake Pearson, and head coach Matthew Dona.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

FORT THOMAS – The Matthew Dona-coached Fort Thomas Apaches earned the 1A East Region boys tourney title, topping second seed Duncan 67-51 in Jerry W. Hancock Gymnasium Feb. 7. Fort Thomas led 18-11 following the opening period, 34-23 at halftime, and 51-35 heading into the fourth period.

Senior Jaden Preston’s field goal gave the host Apaches a 12-11 edge with 2:11 left in the opening period and the lead for good. The Wildkats tied the score twice before on a pair of Jarret French 3-pointers, 3-3 with 2:34 and 9-9 with 5:01 elapsed but were unable to do it again. The closest Duncan got was four points thrice in the second period, 14-18 on a Chris Smith 3-pointer with 30 seconds elapsed, 16-20 on a Tommy Hille field goal 1:01 later, and 21-25 on a French 3-pointer with 2:56 left.

Fort Thomas reached a double-digit advantage, 31-21, on a pair of Skylar Kindelay free throws 23 seconds before halftime. A Conlon Jensen field goal pared Duncan’s deficit to single digits, but a Malachi Rogers 3-pointer with no time left raised the margin to 11, 34-23 at halftime.

Duncan cut the deficit to single digits once more, 35-43 on a Hille 3-pointer with 3:11 left in the third period, but no closer thereafter. Fort Thomas reached a 23-point advantage on Rogers’ second 3-pointer of the night, 67-44 with 3:02 left to play.

The Apaches totaled 24 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 13-17 free throws compared to 18 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 8-9 free throws by the Wildkats.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Latrell Titla blocks Duncan’s initial shot of the game, attempted by senior Steven Pierpont. The Fort Thomas senior was selected East All-Region First Team and Pierpont Region Defensive Player of the Year.

Rogers netted 22 points on seven field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 6-6 free throws and Kindelay 19 seven field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 3-5 free throws. Seniors Brad Johnson and Latrell Titla added eight points apiece, Preston six, and sophomore Cameron Anderson four.

For the Wildkats, French had 14 points on four 3-pointers plus 2-2 free throws and Hille 10 on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 1-2 free throws. Seniors Lucas Basteen, Cliff Hansen, and Chris Smith added six points apiece, senior Steven Pierpont five, and junior Nathan Kempton and sophomore Conlon Jensen two each.

Fort Thomas eliminated Gilbert Arete Prep 88-40 and Duncan ousted Cibecue 70-46 during the tourney semifinals Feb. 4.

The Apaches were the top seed to the region tourney with an 8-0 region record, Duncan second (6-2), Cibecue third (5-3), Arete Prep fourth (5-3), Phoenix NFL Yet fifth (4-4), Superior sixth (3-5), North Phoenix Prep seventh (3-5), Ray eighth (1-7), and Winkelman Hayden ninth (1-7).

The top 16 teams will make up the state tourney field. A play-in round at the higher seed is on Saturday, Feb. 15. The eight winners meet for the quarterfinals on Feb. 21 in the Prescott area, with semifinals on Feb. 22 and the championship on Feb. 22.

Fort Thomas (17-2 seeding) was ranked No. 1 of 34 teams as of Feb. 7. Rankings of the other East Region members were No. 8 for Duncan (13-5), No. 9 for NFL Yet (12-5), No. 12 for Arete Prep (10-8), No. 16 for Cibecue (8-9), No. 21 for North Phoenix Prep (8-9), No. 22 for Superior (6-11), No. 25 for Winkelman Hayden (4-14), and No. 28 for Kearny Ray (2-16).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan junior Tommy Hille heads to the basket with Fort Thomas senior Jaden Preston defending. Hille totaled 10 points and Preston six.

Members of the state’s top-ranked team are seniors Jeremiah Bullis, Jeconiah Edwards, Brad Johnson, Skylar Kindelay, Charles Kniffin, Stanley Loas, Jaden Preston, Malachi Rogers, Nikolas Thompson, and Latrell Titla; juniors Colby Pino, Traymond Titla, and Trayshaun Wilson; and sophomore Cameron Anderson.

During their 4-year career, the senior Apaches posted an 11-0 record versus the Wildkats, and went 5-3 in the region tourney, 28-2 in the region, 37-10 in Jerry W. Hancock Gymnasium, 6-5 in the state meet, and currently 88-36 overall.

The win was the seventh straight at home by Fort Thomas over Duncan and the 12th in a row. The Apaches averaged a 60-42 (663-465) score per game or an 18-point margin in the previous 11 pairings.

Duncan prevailed over the Apaches 72-66 (Dec. 28, 2016) at EAC. The Wildkats’ last win in Fort Thomas was 54-51 (Dec. 15, 2015).

1A East All-Region

All-region honorees were announced following the championship game. The First Team included Fort Thomas seniors Latrell Titla and Skylar Kindelay, Duncan junior Jarret French, Cibecue senior Roger Lupe III, Arete Prep junior Toni Atolgabe, Hayden freshman Brandon Gardner.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas senior Malachi Rogers steps to cut off Duncan junior Jarret French. French was named East Region First Team and Rogers Region Player of the Year / Most Valuable Player.

Second Team members had Fort Thomas senior Jaden Preston, Duncan junior Tommy Hille, Cibecue senior Corleone Dupris, Arete Prep junior Brandon Fish and sophomore Matt McClelland, and Hayden freshman Isaac Castillo.

Honorable Mention was given to Fort Thomas seniors Jeremiah Bullis and Jeconiah Edwards plus junior Cameron Anderson; Duncan seniors Lucas Basteen, Cliff Hansen, and Chris Smith; Cibecue freshman Leaundre Lupe and Micah Ivins; Arete Prep junior Owen Kremer; Phoenix NFL Yet sophomore Kristopher Floyd; Superior senior Sammy Lopez and junior Adam Navarrette; Ray juniors Cody Hickingbottom and Alex Carrillo; and Hayden senior Javier Lopez and junior Arthur Castillo.

Fort Thomas senior Brad Johnson was the East Region Offensive Player of the Year, Duncan senior Pierpont the East Region Defensive Player of the Year, and Fort Thomas senior Malachi Rogers the East Region Player of the Year / Most Valuable Player.

The East Region Coach of the Year was Matthew Dona of Fort Thomas.