Morenci boys travel to No. 5 Pima on Tuesday, and No. 4 Phoenix Country Day on Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci junior Nicolas Hammond (15) makes it difficult for Willcox sophomore J.T. Garza to inbound the ball. The Cowboys left Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with a region loss Jan. 16.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Having posted a pair of region wins, the Tommy Navarrete-coached Wildcats traveled to Tucson and returned with a 48-56 non-region loss to The Gregory School Hawks on Jan. 17. Morenci’s region wins were 62-56 over the Bobcats in Benson on Jan. 14 and 53-45 over the Willcox Cowboys in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium on Jan. 16.

The No. 37 Wildcats (7-11 overall, 4-7 seeding, minus 7.4600 rating, 3-4 East Region) will next take on a pair of Top 5 opponents, both on the road. Morenci heads to No. 5 Pima (13-4, 8-2, 8.0453, 6-0) for a region contest Tuesday, Jan. 21 and to No. 4 Phoenix Country Day (13-6, 8-2, 8.5094, 1-0 Metro Region) for a non-region pairing Friday, Jan. 24.

Five other region pairings are also on tap this week, Benson at Bisbee and Thatcher at Tombstone on Jan. 21, and Bisbee at Pima, Tombstone at Benson, and Willcox at Thatcher on Jan. 24.

As of Jan.19, Pima (6-0 region) leads the 2A East Region, followed by Thatcher (5-1), Benson (3-4), Bisbee (3-4), Morenci (3-4), Willcox (1-5), and Tombstone (0-5).

Rankings coming out of the weekend for region members were Pima No. 5 (8-2 seeding, 8.0453 rating) of 50 2A teams, Thatcher No. 16 (7-4, 0.9742), Benson No. 28 (4-6, minus 4.2533), Bisbee No. 35 (3-7, minus 5.8568), Morenci No. 37 (4-7, minus 7.4600), Willcox No. 40 (2-6, minus 9.8859), and Tombstone No. 48 (1-9, minus 15.2872).

Pima has topped Benson twice, 34-31 (Dec. 10) and 57-38 (Jan. 17), Morenci 55-44 (Dec. 2), Bisbee 81-46 (Dec. 3), Tombstone 52-22 (Dec. 20), and Thatcher 47-36 (Jan. 14).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Christian Mpoyo knifes in between Cowboys Ayden Fuentes (10) and J.J. Lunt (14) en route to the basket. The Morenci sophomore had 18 points against Willcox with 10-14 free throws. He totaled 46 points for the three games last week.

Thatcher defeated Bisbee twice, 79-54 (Dec. 10) and 69-53 (Jan. 17), Willcox 59-28 (Dec. 11), Morenci 62-39 (Jan. 7), and Benson 58-37 (Jan. 9).

Benson’s wins are 62-59 over Bisbee (Dec. 13), 42-26 over Tombstone (Dec. 17), and 58-37 over Willcox (Dec. 20); Bisbee’s wins are 64-31 over Willcox (Dec. 5), 70-66 over Morenci (Dec. 20), and 74-18 over Tombstone (Jan. 7); Morenci’s wins are 70-40 over Tombstone (Jan. 10), 62-56 over Benson (Jan. 14), and 53-47 over Willcox (Jan. 16); and Willcox bested Morenci 64-59 (Dec. 10).

East Region games remaining total 14; seven each in the next two weeks. The week of Jan. 27-Feb. 1 has Benson at Willcox and Tombstone at Pima on Jan. 28; Willcox at Pima on Jan. 29; Bisbee at Tombstone, Morenci at Thatcher, and Pima at Willcox  onJan. 31; and Bisbee at Morenci on Feb. 1.

The week of Feb. 3-8 has Morenci at Tombstone, Thatcher at Benson, and Willcox at Bisbee on Feb. 4; Benson at Morenci, Pima at Thatcher, and Tombstone at Willcox on Feb. 6; and Tombstone at Thatcher on Feb. 7.

The region tourney begins Feb. 11.

Through 18 games, the Wildcats are being outscored by an average of 51-54 (920-975) per game or by a 3-point deficit. Morenci’s free throw percentage is 62 (147-238) compared to 64 (148-231) for its combined opponents.

Individually, junior Jeremiah Rojas has a percentage of 83 (5-6), Martinez 73 (36-49), Saenz 70 (7-10), junior Torman Lang 63 (5-8), Chavez 62 (34-55), Mpoyo 58 (43-74), Waters 55 (12-22), junior Nicolas Hammond 33 (2-6), and both junior Jordan Reyes and freshman Daylen Johnson 0-2 each.

Hawks – 56, Wildcats – 48

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Steven Shawn Michael Chavez Jr. looks for an open teammate on an inbounds play. The Morenci junior netted a season-high 19 points against Willcox and totaled 41 for the three games last week.

Morenci trailed by one, 27-28, at halftime and by five, 35-40, heading into the final period. A 13-16 fourth period outing left the visitors on the losing end as the final buzzer sounded.

The Wildcats made 13 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 16-23 free throws compared to 19 field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 13-23 free throws by the Hawks.

Chavez and Mpoyo totaled a dozen points apiece, on three field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 4-6 free throws and on three field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 5-7 free throws, respectively. Martinez and Waters added nine points apiece, Saenz four, and Rojas two. Mpoya hauled down 11 rebounds and Chavez handed out four assists.

For the Hawks, Jusiah Prior had a game-high 27 points on eight field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 9-12 free throws. Vince Edwards added nine points, Philip Dubose seven, Nick Mojia six, Kasey Lapan four, and Leo Gruenstein three.

Wildcats – 53, Cowboys – 45

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Maddux Martinez pulls up for a shot attempt against Willcox. The Morenci sophomore had 14 points against the Cowboys and totaled 46 for the three games last week.

Trailing 19-27 at halftime, Morenci went on a 10-0 run in the opening 2:43 of the second half before Willcox tied the score 17 seconds later. Willcox led 12-10 following the opening period.

A Chavez 3-pointer, a Mpoyo field goal plus free throw, a Waters field goal, and another Mpoyo field goal accounted for the scoring swing.

Two Chavez free throws gave the Wildcats their initial lead of the game, a 31-30 advantage and the lead for good with 3:56 left in the third period. Three of four more Chavez free throws put Morenci ahead by four 30 seconds later as both teams had five additional points to close out the period.

The Wildcats added seven unanswered points for a 46-35 advantage with 1:01 elapsed in the fourth period. Willcox came within three, 48-45 with 2:44 left, but no closer. The Wildcats added 5-9 free throws to finish the scoring.

Morenci connected on 17 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 17-24 free throws versus 21 field goals plus 5-8 free throws by Willcox.

Chavez tallied a season-high 19 points on five field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 7-8 free throws, Mpoyo 18 on four field goals plus 10-14 free throws, and Martinez 14 on seven field goals plus 0-1 free throws. Waters added two points. Mpoyo and Martinez had eight rebounds apiece and Chavez seven. Saenz made four assists.

For Willcox, Rico Lunt had a game-high 21 points on 10 field goals plus 1-1 free throws. Ayden Fuentes added eight points, J.J. Lunt seven, J.T. Garza five, and Luke Kauftman four. 

Wildcats – 62, Bobcats – 56

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Rico Lunt calls for the ball at the high post. The Willcox 6-5 freshman scored four of the Cowboys’ first five field goals and finished with a game-high 21 points.

A 20-6 third period outing gave Morenci a 48-38 advantage heading into the final eight minutes. The Wildcats started the second half trailing 28-32 and Benson led 17-16 following the opening period.

The Wildcats made 21 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 16-23 free throws compared to 18 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 17-24 free throws by the Bobcats.

Martinez totaled a game-high 23 points on eight field goals plus 7-8 free throws, Mpoyo 16 on six field goals plus 4-6 free throws, Chavez 19 on four field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 0-3 free throws. Waters added five points, Saenz four, Hammond three, and Lang one.

For Benson, Tanner Palmer had 14 points on four field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 3-6 free throws and Devin Bowling 13 on three field goals plus 7-7 free throws. Carson Barney and Brandon Emerich added seven points apiece, Mundo Esparza six, Diego Nikitas five, Wyatt Wilharm three, and Brox Determan one.

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