Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Junior John Olmsted keeps the ball high as he looks to score against Cobre on Jan. 27. He notched a season-high 34 points in Tombstone the night before.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – The Patrick Hepper-coached Morenci basketball boys ended January with a 10-2 record, a six-game win streak, and the home court advantage in the region tourney first round.
Morenci topped the Cowboys 64-43 in Willcox on Jan. 23, the Yellow Jackets 67-55 in Tombstone on Jan. 26, the New Mexico Bayard Cobre Indians 46-31 in Morenci on Jan. 27, and the Thatcher Eagles 59-44 in Morenci on Jan. 30.
The revived 2A East Region tourney begins Tuesday with No. 7 Willcox (2-10) at No. 2 Morenci (9-3), No. 6 Bisbee (2-10) at No. 3 Thatcher (9-3), and No. 5 Benson (4-8) at No. 4 Tombstone (4-8). Pima (12-0) drew a bye as the region top seed.
Second round pairings are the No. 4 – No. 5 winner versus Pima, and the No. 3 – No. 6 winner versus the No. 2 – No. 7 winner Thursday, Feb. 8.
Morenci – 59, Thatcher – 44
The Wildcats outscored the visitors 25-10 during the final period, taking the region second place away from Thatcher in the process, and the home court advantage in the first two rounds of the upcoming region tourney.
Freshman point guard Diego Mendoza drove to the basket, put up a high percentage shot and drew a foul as the ball dropped through the net. His field goal gave the Wildcats the lead for good, 43-41, with 5:00 remaining. The free throw raised the margin to 3.
Morenci went on to outscore Thatcher 15-3 during the closing 4:08. Mendoza’s next and-1 play put the Wildcats ahead by 10, 52-42, with 2:24 left. He netted 11 fourth-period points on three field goals plus 5-6 free throws. Two points, on a field goal plus 0-4 free throws, were all he had through the first three periods combined.
Junior John Olmsted added 8 points, senior Chris Leonard 4, and junior Jordan Leonard 2.
The score was deadlocked 34-34 at the start of the final period, 39-39 with 2:07 elapsed, and a final time, 41-41, 31 seconds later.
Chris Leonard tied the score at 32-32 on a 3-pointer with 1:58 left in the third period and a pair of Olmsted free throws tied it at 34-34.
Thatcher led 23-20 at halftime as junior Rulon White sank a 3-pointer, breaking a 20-20 tie with no time left. The Eagles controlled the opening tip and junior Trace Goodman scored the initial 2 points with 45 seconds elapsed, but Olmsted tied the score on a field goal with an assist by junior Matthew Silvester 17 seconds later.
Jordan Leonard tied the score at 8-8 with 3:10 left in the first period and Morenci went on a 5-0 run to lead 13-8 at the start of the second period.
For the game, Morenci totaled 20 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 16-29 free throws compared to 17 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 3-7 free throws by Thatcher.
Olmsted had a game-high 22 points on nine field goals plus 4-9 free throws. Chris Leonard added 9 points, Jordan Leonard 8, junior Ryan Hayes 4, sophomore Dominik Waters 2, and senior David Corona 1.
For Thatcher, White tallied a team-high 21 points on eight field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 2-4 free throws. Goodman added 9 points, senior Trenton Ferrin 6, senior Tyler Roebuck and freshman Michael Greer 3 apiece, and junior Cole Motes 2.
The win over Thatcher left Morenci 3-0 in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium and 4-4 versus the Eagles during four seasons under Hepper.
Prior to tipoff, Morenci had a 12-5 seeding record and was 8-3 in the region for No. 3 standing while Thatcher was 11-5 and 8-2 for No. 2.
Thatcher slipped past Morenci 57-54 during a Jan. 4 pairing in Graham County and had outscored region opponents by an average of 63-51 (630-512) or 12-point margin per game while the Wildcats had a 58-47 (641-521) average or 11-point margin.
Pima, top-ranked and region leader, ended with a 66-37 (792-438) average score per region game or a 29-point margin per game.
Morenci – 46, Cobre – 31
The Wildcats controlled the opening tip, worked the ball around the perimeter until they got an open look, and Silvester dialed long distance for three points with 34 seconds elapsed. Morenci never trailed thereafter, leading 13-8 following the opening period, 26-15 at halftime, and 38-26 heading into the final period.
A 17-point advantage was held by the Wildcats twice, 35-18 with 4:36 left in the third period and 46-29 with 1:47 left to play. The Indians got within 9 points, 29-38, 51 seconds into the final period, but did not tie or lead.
Morenci totaled 18 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 7-11 free throws compared to 13 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 2-7 free throws by Cobre. The Wildcats had an unofficial 23-21 rebounding edge.
Olmsted had 13 points on five field goals plus 3-4 free throws. Jordan Leonard added 9 points, Chris Leonard and Mendoza both 7, Hayes four, and Silvester and Waters 3 apiece.
For the Indians, Felix Dominguez had 10 points on four field goals plus 2-4 free throws. Gabe Ortiz added 9 points, Jimmy Rico 5, Novliso Torrez 3, both Javier Garcia and Zeke Ramirez 2 each.
Morenci – 67, Tombstone – 55
A 22-10 third-period outing allowed the Wildcats a 55-46 advantage heading into the final period. Olmsted contributed 9 points, Mendoza 6, Waters 3, and the Leonards 2 each. Morenci put the game away with a 12-9 fourth-period effort.
Tombstone led 14-11 following the opening period and 36-33 at halftime.
Morenci totaled 23 field goals (nine 3-pointers) plus 12-17 free throws versus 19 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 9-17 free throws by Tombstone.
Olmsted netted a season-high 34 points on 12 field goals plus 10-14 free throws and Mendoza 14 on five field goals (four 3-pointers). Waters added 9 points, Jordan Leonard 5, Corona 3, and Chris Leonard 2.
For Tombstone, Demond Smith netted 32 points on 11 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 4-8 free throws. Louie Aviles added 7 points, Manzell Blackwell and Joey Melton 6 apiece, Nathan Snyder 3, and Anthony Duran 1.
Morenci – 64, Willcox – 43
A 15-7 Cowboys’ fourth-period outing was not enough to offset Morenci’s 29-point, 57-28, three-period advantage. The Wildcats enjoyed a 2-to-1 advantage both after the opening period and at halftime, leading 14-7 and 36-18, respectively.
Morenci totaled 26 field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 7-11 free throws versus 16 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 9-15 free throws by Willcox.
Four Wildcats scored in double figures. Olmsted got 18 points on seven field goals plus 4-5 free throws, Jordan Leonard 12 on five field goals (two 3-pointers), and both Chris Leonard and freshman Maddux Martinez 10. Leonard scored on four field goals (two 3-pointers) and Martinez on five field goals. Mendoza added 6 points, Waters 5, Hayes 2, and Silvester 1.
For Willcox, junior Tanner DeBaun had 17 points on six field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 4-7 free throws and senior Kade Norris 10 on five field goals. Senior Elijah Sheppard added 7 points, senior Javi Garcia 5, and both freshmen Cael DeBaun and Omar Felix 2.