Fort Thomas defeats Thatcher for third place at girls holiday tourney

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Willcox junior Jordyn Rhinehart defends against Pima senior Raely Brown for a possible rebound during the 43rd annual EAC Girls Holiday Tournament.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

Fort Thomas defeated Thatcher 58-51 for third place at the 43rd annual Eastern Arizona College Girls Holiday Tournament on Dec. 15. Fifth-seed Pima topped seventh-seed Willcox 46-29 for fifth place, and Morenci pulled away from Duncan 50-35 for seventh place.

Top-seeded Safford beat third-seed San Carlos 52-35 for the title. Read our article on that game here

Advancing in the consolation round were Willcox and Pima with wins of 42-24 over Morenci and 49-14 over Duncan, respectively.

The other first-round winners were Thatcher (67-31 over Willcox) and Fort Thomas (52-42 over Pima).

Third Place Game

Trailing 29-25 at halftime, the Apaches came back with a 16-0 run during the initial 4:53 of the second half en route to a 30-22 outing, and did not relinquish the lead during the final 11:07.

It was a 4-point Fort Thomas advantage, 49-45, following a Normisha Moses free throw with 1:47 left to play. Three long distance field goals, two by Thatcher sophomore Karlee Lords and answered once by Fort Thomas junior Angel Wright, twice narrowed it to one, 49-48 with 1:39 and 52-51 with 52 seconds left.

A pairof Wright free throws with 20 seconds left raised the margin back up to three points, 54-51. Freshman Hailey Hinton made the third of a 3-shot free throw award with five seconds left to seal the win.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas sophomore Kyia Haws puts up a shot against Thatcher. She finished with five points and was selected to the all-tourney team.

“We had a gut check after we didn’t do so well the day before against Thatcher,” Fort Thomas head coach Lee Haws said. “We are a young team with only three returnees with varsity game experience. Who was going to step up I asked.”

The Apaches responded. “We were on fire in the second half,” he said. “It was a character game.”

Fort Thomas totaled 19 field goals (nine 3-pointers) plus 8-17 free throws compared to 19 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 5-7 free throws by Thatcher.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas senior guard Normisha Moses shoots against Thatcher during the third-place game. Moses totaled 12 points and was named to the all-tourney team.

The nine made long distance shots tied the Apaches with four other teams, 1991 Pima vs. Thatcher in semifinal, 2000 Fort Thomas vs. Morenci in consolation, 2005 Pima vs. Thatcher in semifinal, and 2011 Pima vs. Willcox in first round, for most team 3-pointers in a game. Thatcher’s eight 3-pointers tied with the 2009 Apaches vs. Thatcher in the third place game.

Wright tallied 17 points on six field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 3-5 free throws, Hinton 15 on five field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 1-3 free throws, and Moses 14 on four field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 1-1 free throw. Sophomore KyiaHaws added five points, junior Cheyenne Hinton four, and senior Leigh Dona two.

For Thatcher, senior Brooklynn Angle posted a game-high 23 points on nine field goals (five 3-pointers). Junior Taya Baldwin added nine points, Lords eight, senior Kaitlyn Rasmussen five, and junior Briley Miner, seniors Laila West and Lacie Whitmer two apiece.

Fifth Place Game

Willcox started out with a 5-0 advantage during the opening 2:05, scored by juniors Tapanga Alexander and Alma Barajas on 3-4 free throws and a field goal, respectively.

Pima made 1-4 free throws plus a Hailey Lofgreen 3-pointer to get within one, 4-5, before going ahead for good on senior Alani Blair’s field goal with 4:02 left in the opening period.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A Willcox Cowgirl draws Pima defenders, freshmen Abbie Sherwood (10) and Saydee Allred (14), as she heads into the lane.

The Cowgirls twice tied, 9-9 with 37 seconds and 11-11 with no time left in the opening period, on 3-4 free throws by junior Jordyn Rhinehart. Willcox would not tie or lead during the rest of the game, getting within three, 25-22, with 3:55 left in the third period.

Pima led 23-12 at halftime and 34-22 heading into the final period.

The Roughriders totaled 19 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 4-8 free throws compared to 10 field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 8-13 free throws by the Cowgirls.

Blair had a team-high 17 points on seven field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 2-2 free throws; freshman Saydee Allred had 16 on six field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 1-2 free throws. Freshman Ashlie Sherwood added six points, sophomore Nevaeh Grant, freshman Aubrie Sherwood, and senior Cydnee Palmer two apiece, and senior Raely Brown one.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pima junior Kassandra Velasquez holds the ball up while looking for an open teammate.

For Willcox, Rhinehart had 10 points on three field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-7 free throws. Barajas and sophomore Sydney Klump both had six points, Alexander five, and sophomore Ana Barajas two.

Seventh Place Game

The Greenlee County showdown in Graham County had the white-clad Morenci Wildcats edging the gray-clad Duncan Wildkats by two points, 25-23, in the first half. Players on both teams received court time as the game progressed.

Morenci led 36-28 heading into the final eight minutes. The Wildcats doubled their fourth period output 14-7 to take to finish seventh.

The Wildcats scored on 20 field goals plus 10-17 free throws compared to 11 field goals plus 15-25 free throws by the Wildkats.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan senior Payton Damron controls the ball as Morenci sophomore Candace Forgach-Aguilar attempts a steal. Damron and Morenci junior Brigid Silvester (12) were selected to the all-tourney team. Morenci pulled away from Duncan 50-35 to finish seventh.

Nine of 14 Wildcats scored with one in double figures. Senior Heather Lee had 14 points on seven field goals. Juniors Reonna Alvarez and Bridgid Silvester added seven points apiece, sophomore Kayla O’Connell and freshmen Juliauna Forgach-Aguilarand Devanie Medina six apiece, senior Faith Hood two, and junior Desiree Babb and sophomore Destinee Marquez one apiece.

Six players scored for Duncan. Senior Payton Damron and sophomore Melissa Claridge both had 12 points, on one field goal plus 10-12 free throws and on five field goals plus 2-6 free throws, respectively. Seniors Britni Avant and Katelin Stergion added four points apiece, senior Delanie Claridge two, and freshman Kierra Lacey one.

Tourney Records

It was the top-seeded Bulldogs’ 25th tourney finale appearance, the 16th title, and the fifth in arow. Safford won three straight from 1983-85 (8th-10th).

Thatcher is 12-9 in title games and has the meet record for most consecutive title wins, seven from 1997- 2003 (22nd-28th).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Pima senior guard Alani Blair focuses on making a third quarter free throw against Willcox. She made 2-2 as the roughriders defeated Willcox 46-29 for fifth place.

Beginning as a four-team, two-day meet with two games each day during the nation’s 1976 bicentennial year, the ensuing 42 tourneys included eight teams with four games in three days. Morenci defeated Clifton 55-42 for the title, after the Wildcats topped Thatcher 56-11 and the Trojans downed Safford 29-15 on the first day. Safford ended third with a 33-21 win over Thatcher.

Safford is 92-35 overall as the Bulldogs played only two games in the 1998 meet because the seventh-place game was not held.

Thatcher is 87-41 during 43 tourneys, Duncan 54-72 and Willcox 51-76 during 42 tourneys, Pima 64-56 and Fort Thomas 57-63 during 40 tourneys, Morenci 57-59 during 39 tourneys, and San Carlos 2-1 in one tourney.

Nine other teams have also participated, Clifton (19-72) in 31 tourneys, Miami (3-12) and New Mexico Cliff (9-6) in five tourneys, both Globe (5-1) and San Simon (1-5) in two tourneys, and Ajo (1-2), Eagar Round Valley (1-2), New Mexico Bayard Cobre (1-2), and Tucson Green Fields Country Day School (0-3) in one tourney apiece.