Morenci boys open head coach’s fourth stint with a home win

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Coach Tommy Navarrete goes over strategy during a time out. The Wildcats gave the 14th-year boys head coach a 58-45 win for his 30th coaching year and fourth stint opener at Morenci.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Morenci Wildcats opened the season with a 58-45 non-region home win over the Kearny Ray Bearcats on Nov. 26. It kicked off 18th-year head coach Tommy Navarrete’s fourth stint at Morenci.

“We’re young and it showed,” the 14th-year Morenci boys’ head coach said. “We had too many turnovers.”

The Wildcats will have a taller opponent in their upcoming 2A East Region opener with Pima on Monday, Dec. 2. The Roughriders enter Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with a season-opening 67-54 win over Fort Thomas.

Wildcats – 58, Bearcats – 45

Morenci controlled the opening tip, missed a 3-point attempt 19 seconds later, but made the games’ first field goal with 32 seconds elapsed, and took the lead for good 1:57 later. It gave the Wildcats a 7-6 advantage with 5:31 left in the opening quarter and they did not trail thereafter. The Steven Shawn-Michael Chavez Jr. basket off an assist from Maddux Martinez sparked a 14-0 run, giving the Wildcats a 19-6 lead with 2:37 left in the quarter.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Maddux Martinez elevates for a high-percentage jump shot against Ray junior Derek Figueroa. The Morenci junior totaled a game-high 25 points on shooting percentages of 47 (9-19 floor) and 100 (5-5 line). He also pulled down eight rebounds, handed out four assists, and took a charge.

Ray used twice as much time, 1:04, to score its initial points on 2-3 free throws for the games’ only tie, went ahead twice, 13 seconds later (4-2) and again 21 seconds after that (6-5), before losing the lead completely. The Bearcats committed a turnover and missed six field-goal attempts during Morenci’s early game-changing run.

Morenci led 21-11 following the initial eight minutes, 30-17 at halftime, and 48-29 at the start of the final eight minutes. All nine Wildcats received court time compared to 9-11 for the visitors.

The Bearcats reduced the deficit to single digits, 30-21, with two early second-half baskets off Morenci turnovers, but the white jersey-clad boys maintained a double-digit advantage for most of the game.

Morenci connected on 22-50 (44 percent) field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 12-13 (92 percent) free throws compared to 17 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 5-7 free throws for the 0-3 visitors. The teams both scored in double figures during three of four quarters.

Martinez paced Morenci scorers with 25 points on 9-19 (47 percent) field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 5-5 free throws. Christian Mutengela Mpoyo had 14 points on 5-9 (56 percent) field goals plus 4-4 free throws and Chavez 10 on 4-11 (36 percent) field goals plus 2-2 free throws. Dominik Waters added 4 points, Jeremiah Rojas 3, and Derek Saenz had 2.

Additionally, Morenci totaled 31 rebounds, 14 steals, 11 assists, two charges, and 22 turnovers. Mpoyo contributed 10 rebounds and four steals; Martinez eight rebounds and four assists; Chavez seven rebounds, five steals, and four assists; Nicolas Hammond four rebounds; Saenz two steals and two assists; Jordan Reyes two rebounds, a steal, and an assist; and Waters two steals. Chavez and Martinez both took a charge.

Two of six Bearcats scoring were in double figures, totaling 31 points. Four others totaled 14 points.

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