Morenci girls head to White Mountains for Round of 16 pairing

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Mia Ontiveros defends against Trivium Prep junior Lexi Collter connecting with an open teammate during the first half. The Morenci sophomore did not score, but the Wildcats held the visitors to three and four points in the first and second quarters, respectively, while netting 16 in each. Morenci prevailed 55-24 over the No. 21 Crimson Knights and advanced to the Round of 16, facing No. 5 Round Valley in Eagar as No. 12 on Wednesday, March 10.

Both Pima teams have home playoff openers while Thatcher boys hit the road

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Albert Ortega-coached Morenci Wildcats head to the White Mountains for the first round of the 2A state tourney Wednesday, March 9. The No. 12 Wildcats (7-7 overall, 4.7212 rating) face No. 5 Eagar Round Valley (9-6, 11.9598) in the Round of 16. The teams have met twice this season, with the Elks walking off the court notching 61-40 (Jan. 27) and 52-44 (Feb. 12) East Region wins.

The Elks also defeated Heber Mogollon 55-28 (Jan. 30), Saint Johns 28-25 (Feb. 2), Show Low 40-38 (Feb. 3), Miami 87-26 (Feb. 16), Saint Johns 45-43 (Feb. 19), Payson 56-39 (Feb. 20), and Miami 80-9 (Feb. 27).

The losses were 35-61 to Snowflake (Jan. 21), 34-57 to Pima (Feb. 9), 35-45 to Thatcher (Feb. 11), 37-52 to Holbrook (Feb. 17), 29-32 to Show Low (Feb. 24), and 37-58 to Pima (Feb. 26).

Round Valley averaged a score of 47-40 (711-597) per game or a 7-point margin through 15 games.

Morenci averaged a score of 52-41 (1,042-810) per game or an 11-point margin through 14 games. The Wildcats downed Phoenix Country Day School 54-39 (Jan. 23), Willcox 45-17 (Feb. 4), Miami 58-22 (Feb. 9), Saint David 54-46 (Feb. 18), Miami 65-27 (Feb. 25), Lakeside Blue Ridge 48-40 (March 2), and Glendale Trivium Prep 55-24 (March 5).

The other losses were 50-75 to Saint Johns (Jan. 29), 32-51 to Show Low (Jan. 30), 35-65 to Pima (Feb. 5), 19-70 to Pima (Feb. 23), and 47-50 to Saint Johns (March 1).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Seniors Amaya Sanchez, left, and Elicia Esquivel team up to prevent an inside pass to Kennis Johnson. The Trivium Prep senior was limited to three points for the game. Sanchez had four points and Esquivel two.

Morenci eliminated No. 21 Trivium Prep 55-24 during the play-in round on March 5. The higher seeds all advanced following the other seven pairings, No. 16 Scottsdale Prep, 37-29 over No. 17 Kingman Academy (8-9); No. 15 Glendale Prep, 67-12 over No. 18 Chandler Prep (8-8); No. 14 Gilbert Arete Prep, 54-35 over No. 19 Glendale Desert Heights Academy (6-11); No. 13 Phoenix Country Day School, 47-29 over No. 20 Gilbert Classical (8-9); No. 11 Scottsdale Christian, 47-30 over No. 22 Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep (6-6); No. 10 Phoenix Horizon Honors, received a forfeit from No. 23 Flagstaff Northland Prep (4-13); and No. 9 Avondale Saint John Paul II Catholic, 68-33 over No. 24 Tombstone (2-13).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Junior Devanie Medina denies a pass from Kiah Burk to a teammate. The Trivium Prep senior scored a team-high 14 points while four others divided 10 points. Medina did not score, but nine Wildcats did.

Top-seeded Pima (16-1, 20.7833) hosts No. 16 Scottsdale Prep (10-8, minus 0.8269), No. 8 Phoenix Christian (10-3, 8.6421) meets No. 9 Saint John Paul II (11-3, 8.2476), and No. 4 Saint Johns (11-6, 12.2499) welcomes No. 13 Phoenix Country Day School (9-5, 3.3528).

In the lower bracket, No. 14 Arete Prep (11-5, 2.8113) at No. 3 Sedona Red Rock (12-0, 17.5095), No. 11 Scottsdale Christian (10-5, 5.7820) at No. 6 Benson (13-1, 11.6866), No. 10 Horizon Honors (9-4, 7.2444) at No. 7 Phoenix Valley Lutheran (15-2, 11.2310), and No. 15 Glendale Prep (11-6, 2.7975) at No. 2 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran (17-0, 18.5193).

Winners meet at the higher seed for the quarterfinals on March 13. The semifinals are scheduled to be held in Scottsdale on March 19 and the final at Saint John Paul II on March 20.

Last season, Morenci averaged a 42-40 (1,006-966) score per game or a 2-point margin through 24 regular-season games. The Wildcats prevailed 62-58 during the play-in pairing of No. 19 at No. 14 Benson.

The 2020 state tourney Round of 16 contest of No. 15 Morenci versus No. 2 Bisbee resulted in a 51-49 loss. The Wildcats had a 7-9 seeding record compared to the Pumas’ 16-1 mark.

Morenci – 55, Trivium Prep – 24

Ortega saw something the Wildcats lacked during their final regular-season games. He addressed it and had the Wildcats drill on it in preparation for the play-in pairing with Trivium Prep. It resulted in limiting the visitors to three and four points during the first and second quarters, respectively, while netting 16 points in each quarter.

The first-time post-season participant Crimson Knights reached double figures in the early second half and matched their hosts point for point in the third quarter. Morenci led 43-18 heading into the fourth quarter, following a 32-7 halftime advantage.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Elena Leonard pulls away from Trivium Prep junior Michelle Valenzuela and looks for an open teammate. The Morenci freshman added five second-half points and was one of eight Wildcats adding five or fewer points.

For the game, the Wildcats made 11 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 9-12 free throws compared to seven field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 6-14 free throws by the Crimson Knights.

Junior Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar netted 24 points on 10 field goals plus 4-5 free throws. Senior Destanee Marquez, sophomore Delicia Roybal, and freshman Elena Leonard added five points apiece, seniors Jadah Cortez and Amaya Sanchez along with sophomore Hannah Silvester four each, and both senior Elicia Esquivel and junior Talia Martinez two each. Junior Devanie Medina and sophomore Keirah Chee and Mia Ontiveros did not score.

For Trivium Prep, senior Kiah Burt had 14 points on five field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 1-2 free throws. Junior Lexy Collier added four points, senior Kennis Johnson three, freshman Shirely Zou two, and freshman Jadyn Christison one. Junior Michelle Valenzuela and sophomore Natalie Martinez did not score.

In other playoff scheduling:

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Talia Martinez passes to an open teammate for a high percentage shot attempt. The Morenci junior added a third-quarter field goal off the bench.

In 2A, the. No. 1 Pima girls will host No. 16 Scottsdale Prep on Wednesday, starting at 5 p.m., while the No. 3 Pima boys will host No. 14 Arete Prep at 7 p.m.

In 3A, the No. 14 Thatcher boys will travel to take on No. 3 Snowflake on Wednesday, starting at 7 p.m.

In 3A, the No. 4 Thatcher girls team defeated No. 13 Florence on Tuesday, 51-17. The Eagles will host No. 5 Valley Christian on Friday, March 12, starting at 7 p.m.

In 1A, the No. 2 Fort Thomas girls team defeated No. 15 Salome on March 6, 54-21. The Apaches will host No. 7 St. David on Wednesday, starting at 6 p.m.

In other playoff games:

In 3A, the No. 12 Safford girls team lost to No. 5 Valley Christian on Tuesday, 37-50.

In 1A, the No. 9 Duncan boys team lost to No. 1 North Valley Christian on Tuesday in the 1A quarterfinals, 38-70.