By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – The Morenci boys basketball team jumped 12 slots in ranking following a 5-1 mark, topping the Pumas, 71-40, in Bisbee on Jan. 9, the Bobcats, 65-49, in Benson on Jan. 12, the Tucson Saint Augustine Wolves, 59-38, Jan. 19, the Tombstone Yellow Jackets, 53-37, Jan. 20, both in Morenci, and the Willcox Cowboys, 64-43, in Willcox on Jan. 23. The loss was 40-56 to the Pima Roughriders in Morenci on Jan. 16.
The Wildcats (13-9 overall, 9-5 seeding, 3.4960 rating, 7-3 region for No. 3) begin the week ranked No. 14 of 50 2A teams as of Jan. 21.
Morenci visits the Tombstone Yellow Jackets Friday, Jan. 26, and welcomes the New Mexico Bayard Cobre Indians on Saturday, Jan. 27.
Morenci – 53, Tombstone – 37
The Wildcats enjoyed a 16-point, 19-3, opening period advantage. An 11-point, 29-18, halftime lead proved not enough as five consecutive Louie Aviles’ 3-pointers plus 1-2 free throws got the Yellow Jackets within two, 34-36, with 11 seconds left in the third period.
Freshman Diego Mendoza raised the cushion by two on a pair of free throws nine seconds later, giving the Wildcats a 4-point advantage to start the fourth period.
An inside, high percentage Aviles’ field goal narrowed the margin to 38-36 with 28 seconds elapsed in the final period, but Morenci went on an 8-0 run over the ensuing 3:03, scoring on a Mendoza 3-pointer, a Dominik Waters 3-pointer, and a pair of Mendoza free throws, for a 10-point, 46-36, advantage. Morenci limited the visitors to 1-3 free throws during the final 4:22, adding seven points for the final score.
Morenci totaled 19 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 8-10 free throws versus 13 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 3-6 free throws by Tombstone.
Sophomore John Olmsted notched a team-high 18 points on eight field goals plus 2-4 free throws, junior Jordan Leonard 13 on five field goals (three 3-pointers), and Waters 12 on four 3-pointers. Mendoza added six points and senior Chris Leonard four.
For Tombstone, Aviles netted 18 points on six field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 1-2 free throws. Demond Smith added seven points, and Oscar Alamilla, Manzell Blackwell, Tyler Cepelo, and Anthony Duran three apiece.
Morenci – 59, Saint Augustine – 38
Morenci led 12-7 following the opening period, but the visiting Wolves outscored the Wildcats 11-5 in the second period to give them an 18-17 halftime edge.
A 28-15 third-period effort gave Morenci a 12-point lead, 45-33, to start the final period. The Wildcats opened with a 10-5 spree for a 4-point advantage, 27-23, during the first 2:25 and went 11-3 in the next 2:15 for a 38-28 advantage with 3:20 remaining. Jordan Leonard and Mendoza both contributed eight points, junior Ryan Hayes six, junior Matthew Silvester four, and Olmsted two.
Morenci did not dip below a double-digit advantage during the remainder of the game, posting a 14-5 advantage in the final eight minutes.
The Wildcats totaled 22 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 8-12 free throws compared to 15 field goals (eight 3-pointers) by the Wolves.
Mendoza paced the home scorers, netting a game-high 15 points on six field goals (three 3-pointers), Olmsted 13 on five field goals plus 3-5 free throws, Jordan Leonard 11 on four field goals (three 3-pointers), and Hayes 10 on three field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-4 free throws. Silvester added six points and both seniors David Corona and Chris Leonard two each.
For Saint Augustine, Thomas Reyna tallied 12 points on four 3-pointers and Andrew Reyna 11 on four field goals (three 3-pointers). Fernando Trevizo added five points, Theo Gates and Jose Maldonado four apiece, and Anthony Holguin two.
Pima – 57, Morenci – 40
“There’s a reason they’re No. 1,” Coach Patrick Hepper said. “They play better defense.”
Morenci went up against a defense that allowed only three opening period points and Morenci trailed by 12, 3-15, at the start of the second period.
The Wildcats got within single digits, 32-41, at the start of the final eight minutes, but were outscored 8-16 for the final score.
Morenci totaled 13 field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 9-18 free throws versus 20 field goals (nine 3-pointers) plus 8-13 free throws by Pima.
Olmsted got 13 on five field goals plus 3-10 free throws. Jordan Leonard and Waters added nine points apiece, Chris Leonard five, and Mendoza four.
For Pima, senior Trey Thompson had 18 points on six field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 4-7 free throws, senior Frank Gutierrez 17 on six field goals (five 3-pointers), and junior Dawson Pruszynski 12 on four field goals plus 4-6 free throws. Senior Bradyn Brown added five points, senior Andrew Taylor three, and senior Manny Rivera two.