Morenci comeback sets up overtime win for Copper Cities tourney title

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci’s basketball girls proudly display newly acquired wardrobe additions in Globe on Jan. 4. The 2A Wildcats slipped past 4A Douglas 59-58 in overtime to earn the 39th annual Copper Cities Tourney title. Members of the team include, front, from left, manager Angel Ontiveros, Kellee O’Connell, Yrliani Molina, Desiree Babb, manager Dejah Montoya, and Sarina Robledo; back, from left, Hannah Silvester, Jadah Cortez, Reona Alvarez, Mia Ontiveros, Brigid Silvester, Monica Gonzalez, Zenayah Cortez, and Devanie Medina. Not pictured are Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar and Destanee Marquez.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

GLOBE – “It’s not how you start, but how you finish that matters.”

Those words were followed throughout the two-day meet by the Greenlee County girls.

Morenci opened the 39th annual Copper Cities Tourney with a loss before setting foot in the gym Jan. 3. The Wildcats missed the game, leaving Morenci for the two-hour drive a half-hour before the scheduled start.

“It was (a) miscommunication,” second-year Morenci head coach Albert Ortega said.

A schedule change went unnoticed by vacationing Morenci athletic director Frank Ogas. As a result, the Wildcats took a forfeit for their initial pool game because of an unread electronic message indicating the change.

Morenci won two pool games, and three bracket games to leave Gila County with the 39th Copper Cities Tourney title Jan. 4. The Wildcats slipped past Douglas 59-58 in overtime. The two finalists both opened the meet with a forfeit.

The sixth seed Wildcats qualified for the tourney finale by upsetting third seed Miami 43-12 in the quarterfinals and second seed Globe 38-31 in the semifinal.

Fourth seed Douglas reached the title game by ousting fifth seed Winkelman Hayden 34-26 in the quarterfinal and upsetting top seed San Tan Valley Combs 43-39 in the semifinals.

First-round exits were made by seventh seed Coolidge, 29-26 to 10th seed Cibecue; and by eighth seed Superior, 39-18 to ninth seed San Tan Foothills. Globe eliminated Cibecue 44-33 and Combs ousted San Tan Foothills 29-22 in the quarterfinals.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Brigid Silvester is embraced by team and classmates Desiree Babb, left, and Monica Gonzalez, right, after the final buzzer sounded.

Three rounds of pool play determined seeding on Jan. 3. Pool “A” included Globe (3-0), Hayden (2-1), Morenci (2-1), San Tan Foothills (0-3), and Cibecue (0-3) while Pool “B” had Combs (3-0), Miami (2-1), Douglas (2-1), Coolidge (1-2), and Superior (0-3).

Pool winners at Globe High School were Globe, 39-24 over San Tan Foothills, 40-32 over Cibecue, and 48-19 over Hayden; Combs, 35-27 over Coolidge; Hayden,  22-19 over San Tan Foothills; Morenci, 37-35 in overtime over Cibecue and 49-17 over San Tan Foothills; and Douglas, 60-38 over Cibecue,

Wins at High Desert Middle School were by Miami, 30-16 over Superior and over Douglas through forfeit; by Hayden, over Morenci through forfeit; by Combs, 46-11 over Superior and 40-9 over Miami; by Douglas, 48-42 over Coolidge; and by Coolidge, 39-5 over Superior.

Morenci – 59, Douglas – 58 OT

“I told the girls to look for each other (at halftime),” Ortega said.

They did. The Wildcats came back from a 27-19 halftime deficit to tie in regulation and slipped past Douglas in overtime. Morenci outscored the Bulldogs 35-27 in the second half and 5-4 in overtime for the win.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Zenayah Cortez elevates above Douglas junior Clarissa Jaramillo to control the opening tip-off of the championship game. The Morenci junior had her way with the Bulldogs, dropping in a career-high 34 points by the time the final buzzer sounded.

Trailing 51-54 in the closing seconds of regulation, sophomore Zenayah Cortez pulled up and drilled a 3-pointer which dropped through the net with a second left on the clock. Her field goal gave her 32 points, but she was not done yet.

“I saw the clock was winding down,” Cortez said. ”It was do or die.”

Junior Clarissa Jaramillo gave Douglas a 56-54 lead with a lay-up four seconds into the extra period.

Morenci countered with 1-2 Devanie Medina free throws, 55-56, with 2:02 left following a pair of missed Alexia Robles free throws six seconds earlier.

 Douglas senior Nereyda Trevino added a field goal for a 58-55 advantage with a minute left. Morenci’s Cortez added a field goal 13 seconds later.

A Douglas foul sent Morenci senior Brigid Silvester to the free-throw line with 10 seconds left.

“I was nervous,” she admitted.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: “I was nervous,” said Morenci senior Brigid Silvester while standing at the free-throw line in the final 10 seconds of overtime against Douglas. She calmly took the first shot which rolled around the rim before dropping through the net to knot the score at 58-58. Her second shot drew nothing but net following a Douglas timeout and proved to be the game-winner. Morenci hosts Thatcher for a region contest Jan. 7.

Silvester calmly shot the first one which rolled around the rim before falling through the net. She drew nothing but net on the second one following a Douglas time out.

Another Douglas time out a second later set up the final strategy.

“I told the girls to match up,” Ortega said. “Don’t make it easy for them. Make them work for it.”

 The Wildcats did as they were told. Morenci’s defense found the ball handler yielding the ball to a second option who put up a long-distance airball. Game over.

Morenci made a field goal plus 3-4 free throws compared to two field goals plus zero of two free throws by Douglas in overtime.

For the game, Morenci totaled 23 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 6-10 free throws versus 23 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 5-11 free throws by Douglas.

Cortez netted a career-high 34 points on 15 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 2-4 free throws and Silvester a season-high 16 on five field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 2-2 free throws. Freshman Hannah Silvester added five points, junior Jadah Cortez two, and both Medina and freshman Mia Ontiveros one each.

For Douglas, Robles had 16 points on six field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 2-4 free throws and Trevino 14 on five field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 2-3 free throws. Jaramillo and sophomore Denise Pena added seven points apiece, senior Cariela Miramontes six, senior Paulina Campa and sophomore Taylor Hernandez three each, and senior Poala Peredes two.

Morenci – 38, Globe – 31

Trailing 20-23 at halftime, a 6-0 run gave the Wildcats a 26-23 advantage 2:14 into the third quarter. Three field goals, one by Zenayah Cortez and two by Medina, gave the guests the lead for good. An 8-4 effort during the rest of the quarter had Morenci with a 34-27 advantage heading into the final eight minutes. The teams both added four points apiece in the fourth quarter.

Morenci totaled 16 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 3-10 free throws compared to 12 field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 6-8 free throws by Globe.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior guard Desiree Babb spots an open teammate and passes the ball during the semifinal with Globe. She totaled six points.

Cortez tallied 13 points on six field goals plus 1-2 free throws. Medina added nine points, Brigid Silvester seven, Babb six, Hannah Silvester two, and Robledo one.

For Globe, junior Natasha George had 11 points on five field goals plus 1-2 free throws. Senior Laura Dalton added eight points, junior Jessica Swift four, junior Victoria Hosay three, senior Marla Victor and junior Phinis Fall two each, and senior Sisalle Kindaly one.

Morenci – 43, Miami – 12

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Second-year Morenci head coach Albert Ortega checks to make sure the Wildcats followed directions after a time out.

Morenci led 22-5 at halftime and returned with a 21-7 second-half outing for its initial bracket play win.

The Wildcats netted 14 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 12-19 free throws versus four field goals plus 4-14 free throws by the Vandals.

Cortez had 14 points on four field goals plus 6-6 free throws and Medina 11 on three 3-pointers plus 2-2 free throws. Ontiveros added eight points, sophomore Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar seven, and Brigid Silvester three.

Miami had six contributing to its scoring, none in double figures. Junior Jasmine Perez had five points, junior Jasenia Quezada and sophomore Jalen Pike two apiece, and senior Jessica Garcia, sophomore Carmen Arrellin, and freshman Allie Roberts one each.

Morenci – 49, San Tan Foothills – 17

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Sarina Robledo focused on making a free throw against Globe. While going after a rebound, the Morenci senior stopped an elbow with her face, knocking her down and drawing a technical foul on her opponent. Morenci trailed 18-22 after Robledo made 1-2 with 1:05 left in the second quarter.

The Wildcats added a 25-15 second-half outing to a 24-2 halftime advantage over the Sabercats in their second pool game played Jan. 3.

Morenci totaled18 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 9-21 free throws compared to six field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 3-8 free throws by San Tan Foothills.

Cortez tallied 13 points on five field goals plus 3-4 free throws. Ontiveros contributed nine points, Aguilar and Silvester eight apiece, Babb five, Medina three, Kellie O’Connell two, Jadah Cortez one.

None of the Sabercats had double-digit scoring. Olivia Beaver had seven points, Armani Rodriguez three, Mya Begay, Emily Sartin, and Morgan Tompkins two each, and Sammy Phillips one.

Morenci – 37, Cibecue – 35 OT

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci sophomore Devanie Medina drives around Douglas defender Clarissa Jaramillo during the second half of the title game. Medina connected on 1-2 free throws in overtime to finish with a single point. Jaramillo had seven points.

In overtime, Morenci had a Zenayah Cortez field goal plus 1-2 free throws by both Medina and Brigid Silvester compared to a Heather Machuse free throw plus 1-2 by Delisha Williams for Cibecue.

Morenci led 21-14 at halftime but Cibecue turned in a 19-12 second-half effort to tie in regulation.

The Morenci Wildcats totaled 14 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 7-22 free throws versus 14 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 5-11 free throws by the Cibecue Wildcats.

Zenayah Cortez netted 11 points on five field goals plus 1-7 free throws. Aguilar and Silvester added nine points apiece, Medina five, and Babb three.

For Cibecue, Machuse had 18 points on seven field goals plus 4-7 free throws. Delisha Williams added eight points, Whitney Danford three, and Gabriella Askan, Tantasin Sanchez, and Chana Williams two each.