Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The Fort Thomas girls basketball team fell to the Mogollon Mustangs in the quarterfinals on Friday, 52-54.
By Jon Johnson
The saying goes it’s tough to beat the same team three times in a season. But I suppose it could be even tougher to do it four times.
Favored No. 3 Fort Thomas found that out the hard way at home Friday night when their season ended in the quarterfinals after a back-and-forth dogfight with the No. 6 Mogollon Mustangs ended with the visitors prevailing 54-52. Fort Thomas had previously beaten Mogollon 40-31 on Dec. 8 in the Round Valley Round Ball Tournament; 38-33 at Mogollon on Jan. 12, and 49-37 in the friendly confines of Jerry W. Hancock Gymnasium at Fort Thomas on Jan. 27.
It truly was anybody’s game throughout, but a turning point occurred late in the third that pushed the Mustangs to the forefront.
With about 2:32 left, the Gila Herald’s Player of the Game Lindsey Porter nailed a 3-pointer after a Fort Thomas miss to put the Mustangs up 37-33. After misses by both clubs, Mogollon took a timeout and upon return, Porter handled the Apaches’ press and drove into the lane, where she then dumped off the ball to Kayla Reidhead for the high-percentage shot to go up 39-33 and the Mustangs would not look back.
Fort Thomas had a shot, however, and trailed by just one, 52-53, after Wilson hit a big 3-pointer late in the game. Mogollon brought the ball back down court but Hawkins got the steal with 26.1 seconds left on the clock.
The Apaches then brought the ball downcourt and Hawkins set a screen for Lorenzo, who let one fly from deep with about 20 seconds left on the clock. The shot was short however, and the rebound bounced off a Mogollon player’s head and into the arms of fellow Mustang Heidi Parry, who was then fouled with 14.3 seconds left in the game.
Heidi made 1-2 free throws to put Mogollon up 54-52, but The Fort had the ball for one last shot to tie or win. Lorenzo got the rebound off the second foul shot and brought the ball down the right sideline before going behind her back and passing to Benally at the top of the key. Benally passed the ball back to Lorenzo, who then passed to a cutting Chapman in the lane, but the ball went through Chapman’s hands and was picked up by Porter for the turnover. The horn then sounded as the Mustangs passed the ball from the defense toward mid-court and their celebration began.
The game was tight throughout with mini-runs to propel the teams forward. The Fort started strong as Kaylee Benally (9 points) hit for the first 5 points of the game with a 3-pointer to crack the ice off an assist from Raeleigh Hawkins (6 points) and a hard-drive layup.
The Mustangs rallied with 6 straight points before Adaia Lorenzo (14 points) hit her first 3-pointer of the night to give Fort Thomas an early 8-6 lead with 3:28 left in the first quarter.
Then the Apaches substituted in some of their fabulous freshmen and had instant offense from Jamie Johnson (5 points) as she stole a pass and took it the distance for the hoop.
Mogollon’s point guard Kindsey Porter (17 points) hit a 3-pointer to bring the Mustangs within 1 and a Marissa Parry (17 points) free-throw tied it up at 10-10 at the end of the first. Porter and Melissa Parry both finished with a game-high 17 points.
Hawkins put The Fort back in the lead with a second-quarter opening drive and bucket. However, Mogollon kept pace with Porter dishing a nice assist to Marissa Parry for the fast-break layup and then hitting a jumper herself. A Heidi Parry (5 points) jumper gave Mogollon a 3-point lead, but free throws from Hawkins and Kirah Moses (4 points) evened the score.
Mogollon went ahead by 3 again after another dish from Porter to Marissa Parry for a layup, but Johnson equalized it with a 3-pointer to tie the game up at 22-22 at the half.
The third quarter started as the second with Hawkins driving for the score to put Fort Thomas up by a bucket.
Then it was a battle of the deep ball as Lorenzo scored on a drive and then hit from deep to give The Fort the lead. She was countered by Porter, however, who nailed a 3 in the corner and then a second one to put the Mustangs up 4 with 1:13 left in the third.
Lorenzo countered with her second 3 of the quarter, but after just missing a steal on pressure defense, Mogollon’s Haidyn Franco hit Marissa Parry for a fast-break layup and the Mustangs led 41-36 at the end of the third.
Mogollon stretched its lead up to 9 points with just 6:20 left to play, and The Fort started feeding 5’10” freshman center Kynnedee Bryce (6 points), who was unstoppable when in possession of the ball in position on the block.
After a Bryce score cut it to 40-47, Benally was aggressive and scored on a couple of drives. After 1-2 free throws from Lorenzo and Chapman, Lorenzo hit on a rebound put back to cut it to 48-49 with 2:04 to play and the crowd erupted for the Apaches.
However, with ice in her veins, Porter drove between Wilson and Hawkins, which forced help from Benally to stop her in the lane. Porter immediately dropped a bounce pass to Marissa Parry for the short shot and the lead went back to 3.
Hawkins hit 1-2 free throws to cut it to 49-51 with 1:20 left, but Lorenzo couldn’t handle the pass from Benally and The Fort turned the ball over with 51.1 seconds to play.
Franco then hit Marissa Parry for the layup to go up 4 and things looked grim for The Fort but out of nowhere Wilson jacked up a 3-pointer to cut it back to a 1-point game, 52-53, with 31.8 seconds on the clock and the packed gymnasium went wild.
The cheers kept coming as Hawkins got the steal and possession went to Fort Thomas with 26.1 seconds to play, however, the only scoring left would be from Heidi Parry’s free throw, and The Fort’s season was ended, 52-54.
No. 6 Mogollon still awaits the winner of the No. 10 Valley Union at No. 2 Joseph City game on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The semifinal game will be played at the Findlay Toyota Center in Prescott Valley on Friday, Feb. 16.
Even with the loss the future looks bright for Fort Thomas. The team will lose only one senior and looks to bring back four sophomore starters in Hawkins, Lorenzo, Chapman, and Benally, along with standout freshmen Johnson, Cody, and Bryce to bolster a stacked team for years to come.
Fort Thomas Boys Basketball
The No.5 Fort Thomas boys basketball team fell in the quarterfinals to No.4 Baboquivari, 66-72.