Fort Thomas finishes as State Runners-Up

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas’ Jasmine Olivar pulls up in transition. The Rock Point Cougars prevailed in the girls 1A Championship game, 64-43.

Rock Point wins State Championship, 64-43

By Jon Johnson

PRESCOTT VALLEY – Winning a state championship is hard. Winning two in a row is even more so.

The No.1-seed Fort Thomas Apaches capped a stellar season with a repeat appearance in the 1A Girls State Basketball Championship, falling just short of their goal in a loss to No.2-seed Rock Point on Saturday, 43-64.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Fort Thomas Apaches are the AIA’s 2022 1A Girls Basketball State Runners-Up.

The 5,100-seat arena was probably about 3/5 full of fans, with an obvious edge to Fort Thomas

(6-0 region, 16-0 conference, 30-3 overall), who entered to an eruption of cheers from the crowd.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas head coach Lee Haws questions a referee’s call.

After the game, Fort Thomas head coach Lee Haws didn’t mince words regarding the result.

“They were more physical than us,” Haws said. “It shows in the free throws.”

For the game, Fort Thomas was 5-6 from the charity stripe and Rock Point was 15-18, while seven of those did come in the fourth quarter when Fort Thomas was fouling in a comeback attempt.

The free-throw discrepancy certainly played a part in the game’s result, but one of the main reasons for the Cougars’ victory was the inability of Fort Thomas to stop 6’0” junior shooting guard/power forward Arianne Begay, who popped off inside and out (two 3’s) and was a perfect 7-7 from the line for a game-high 21 points.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Jasmine Olivar drives on a defender. The Fort Thomas standout had 15 points on the night.

“She killed us in that first half,” Haws said. “She’s a player; she’s good. I mean, she scored 21 points in only three quarters . . . She did a good job.”

With Rock Point up 6-4 with 4:06 left in the first quarter, Begay nailed a 3-pointer to start a 10-4 run to end the quarter with Rock Point doubling up the Fort, 16-8.

It would get worse before it would get better for the Fort as they went on a dry spell where they didn’t score for nearly four minutes to start the second. The Apaches were getting shots, they just weren’t going in the bucket.

Conversely, the Cougars continued to utilize their size advantage down low (they also started 6’2” senior center Tamira John while the Fort’s tallest player is 5’7″) and increased their lead with second-chance buckets and by living from the free-throw line. At the 4:31 minute mark in the second quarter, Fort Thomas found itself down 8-23 and the game was slipping away fast.

But then it happened, that switch that good teams have that kicks in when it is absolutely necessary and the Fort went on a 12-4 run over the next 3 minutes of game time to bring it to 20-27 with 1:28 left in the half. The run was sparked by Jasmine Olivar and Chase Stanley, who both hit from deep in the quarter.

“That’s one thing this year’s team had was a little bit of resiliency,” Haws said. “Unfortunately for us, we’re a little undersized but we’ve always been able to outscore people.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas had the clear advantage as far as crowd support.

However, Rock Point was resilient as well and bounced back with a 5-0 run to end the second quarter and stretch the lead back into double digits at the half, 32-20.

Rock Point continued to stretch its lead in the third quarter and the likely outcome soon became evident. That didn’t alter the Apaches’ play though, and they continued to battle to the end. After not being able to cut into the lead in the third, Rock Point put the game out of reach by hitting 7-7 free throws in the fourth quarter – all by Shelby Chee, who finished with 18 points. Other scorers for Rock Point included Tayleen Woody with 10 points; Rainee Bahe with 9, and Danielle Johnson with 6 points.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Chase Stanley drives to the bucket.

Jasmine Olivar led the way for Fort Thomas with 15 points; she was followed by Chase Stanley with 10; Alleenna Gilbert with 6; Tyesha Wilson had 4, and Jayla Wilson and Kenia McCabe both had 2 points each.

“This year’s team was really fun to coach,” Haws said. “It was a good year. It was an accomplishment to get there two years in a row. It’s always a goal, obviously, for most teams, to win a state championship, but, honestly, it is a goal of ours to win every year and be in the conversation. This year’s team was a good group of girls. They’re good kids. They play hard for each other, so it was a lot of fun as a coach.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Hailey Hinton gets past her defender for a bucket.

The Gila Herald congratulates the Fort Thomas Apaches on their season and being the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s 2022 1A Girls State Basketball Runners-Up.

Click here to view the Gila Herald’s Photo Album of the game.