Missed free throws spell defeat for Duncan girls in region opener

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan senior Kaktys Garcia dribbles with Cibecue defender Delisha Williams on her heels. Cibecue won region opener 40-38 Dec. 21.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

DUNCAN – The visiting Cibecue Wildcats edged Duncan 40-38 Dec. 21. The 1A East Region opener capped December schedules for both teams.

After the holiday break, Cibecue (6-5 overall, 4-2 seeding, 1-0 region) heads to the Globe-held Copper Cities Tourney on Jan. 3. Duncan (4-9, 2-4, 0-1) faces the NFL Yet Eagles in Phoenix for a second region game Jan. 7.

The Eric Bejarano-coached Wildkats opened the season going 2-2 in the three-day, Tucson-held Boyd Baker Tourney. Duncan slipped past San Manuel 25-23 and Joseph City 31-29 on Nov. 25. The Wildkats succumbed 17-60 to Bisbee on Nov. 26 and 25-27 to San Manuel on Nov. 27.

Duncan also went 2-2 against its next four non-tourney opponents. The wins were 53-12 at the Academy of Tucson on Dec. 3 and 35-26 over the Winkelman Hayden Lobos in Duncan on Dec. 10. The losses were 31-37 to the Longhorns in San Simon on Dec. 4 and 25-35 to the Lobos in Winkelman on Dec. 6.

Seeded eighth for the 44th annual Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney, Duncan fell 21-92 to top seed San Carlos in the first round Dec. 12, 19-48 to fourth seed Safford in the consolation round Dec. 13, and 20-23 to seventh seed Willcox in the seventh-place game Dec. 14.

The Wildkats have averaged a 29-39 (375-506) score per game or a 10-point deficit through 13 games. Although Duncan has made and taken more free throws than its combined opponents, the shooting percentage is 43 (83-194) for the Wildkats compared to 49 (53-118) for their opponents.

Senior Kaktys Garcia leads the team in free-throw shooting with 60 percent (12-20), followed by sophomore Kiley McGrath at 43 (19-44), senior Kaitlyn Lunt at 43 (12-28), junior Melissa Claridge at 42 (30-71), sophomore Kierra Lacey at 38 (3-8), freshman Kaylee Kempton at 36 (4-11), junior Hailai Moreno at 30 (3-10), and junior Mia Hoglan 0-2.

Cibecue – 40, Duncan – 38

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan sophomore Kierra Lacey breaks free from a Heather Machuse for a shot attempt. Her field goal tied the score 38-38 with 53 seconds left, but Cibecue prevailed 40-38.

The outcome of the game was decided by free throws in the closing moments. The Wildkats twice knotted the score, Lunt 36-36 off a steal with 2:39 left, and Lacey 38-38 with 53 seconds left.

Cibecue free throws broke both ties. Two of two were netted twice, by Gabby Askon with 1:49 and by Heather Machuse with 19 seconds remaining.

Duncan called a time out following the last pair, but, turned the ball over seven seconds later. A foul sent Cibecue back to the free-throw line, the Wildcats missed the front end of a one plus one, and a jump ball resulted in the rebound attempt.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan sophomore Kiley McGrath battles Willcox junior Ana Barajas for the ball. McGrath had four points, Barajas two in the seventh-place tourney game won 23-20 by Willcox on Dec. 14.

Possession went to the Wildkats, who called a time out and set up their strategy with six seconds left. The ball was inbounded, dribbled across the half-court line, and passed to a player near the basket. However, the buzzer sounded before a shot was attempted. It was the fourth game this season that missed free throws surpassed the Wildkats’ margin of loss.

Cibecue led 12-11 following the first quarter. A Delisha Williams field goal with no time left in the third quarter gave the visitors a 32-30 edge heading into the final eight minutes.

Another Williams’ field goal gave Cibecue its largest margin of the final quarter. Duncan made 2-8 free throws and Cibecue 4-6 as both teams added eight points in the fourth quarter. The hosts led 23-19 at halftime.

For the game, Duncan made 14 field goals plus 10-26 free throws compared to 16 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 5-11 free throws by Cibecue.

Claridge netted a game-high 16 points on six field goals plus 4-8 free throws. McGrath added nine points, Lunt six, Kempton four, Lacey two, and Garcia one.

For Cibecue, Amani Jones-Embry had a team-high 12 points on six field goals. Machuse added seven points, Chaner and Delisha Williams six apiece, Whitney Danford three, and Askon, Alyssa Dale, and Francesca Smith two each.

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