Morenci girls take on four top 10 ranked opponents; host Bobcats for region finale Thursday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Desiree Babb sprints toward the basket against Bisbee. The No. 2 ranked Pumas left Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with a 61-44 region win a 10-1 region and 14-1 seeding record Feb. 1.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Albert Ortega-coached Wildcats did something they have not done before. They took on four top 10 ranked opponents in the past two weeks.

The results, Morenci succumbed on the road thrice plus in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium once. The average score per game was 37-54 (137-214) or by an average deficit of 17 points. The free throw percentage was 47 (43-92) for the Wildcats versus 51 (44-87) for the combined for opponents.

Morenci fell 39-58 to No. 9 Pima Jan. 21, 36-38 to No. 3 Phoenix Country Day School in Paradise Valley Jan. 24, and 28-57 to No. 4 Thatcher Jan. 31, plus 44-61 to No. 2 Bisbee at home Feb. 1.

Through 22 games, the Wildcats have averaged a 40-39 (885-864) score per game or a 1-point margin.

As of Feb.1, Bisbee is 10-1 in the 2A East Region, followed by Thatcher (8-1), Pima (8-3), Benson (5-5), Morenci (3-7), Tombstone (1-8), and Willcox (0-10).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci sophomore Devanie Medina pulls up for a shot attempt against Bisbee junior Jimena Valdez. Medina netted five points while Valdez had nine.

Rankings for region members as of Feb. 1 were Bisbee No. 2 (14-1 seeding) of 50 2A teams, Thatcher No. 4 (13-2), Pima No. 9 (13-4), Benson No. 17 (8-7), Morenci No. 19 (5-8), Tombstone No. 28 (4-11), and Willcox No. 33 (1-13).

This week in East Region pairings, Morenci is at Tombstone, Thatcher at Benson, and Willcox at Bisbee Tuesday, Feb. 4; Benson at Morenci, Pima at Thatcher, and Tombstone at Willcox Thursday, Feb. 6; and Tombstone at Thatcher Friday, Feb. 7.

The region tourney begins Feb. 10.

Bisbee has topped Pima 60-55 (Dec. 3) and 47-46 (Jan. 24); Willcox 47-28 (Dec. 5); Thatcher 44-34 (Dec. 10); Benson 44-34 (Dec. 13) and 53-35 (Jan. 21); Morenci 51-45 (Dec. 20) and 61-44 (Feb. 1); and Tombstone 58-21 (Jan. 7) and 63-18 (Jan. 31).

Thatcher has defeated Willcox 48-33 (Dec. 6) and 71-17 (Jan. 24); Morenci 50-45 (Jan. 7) and 57-28 (Jan. 31); Benson 43-24 (Jan. 9), Pima 34-30 (Jan. 14), and Bisbee 51-45 (Jan. 17).

Pima’s region wins are over Benson twice, 55-29 (Dec. 10) and 46-25 (Jan. 17); over Morenci twice, 58-32 (Dec. 5) and 58-39 (Jan. 21); over Tombstone twice, 64-14 (Dec. 20) and 51-29 (Jan. 28); and Willcox twice, 58-10 (Jan. 29) and 53-18 (Jan. 31).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci freshman Zenayah Cortez positions herself for a rebound against Bisbee freshman Gabby Lopez.

Benson’s wins are over Tombstone twice, 62-21 (Dec. 17) and 55-20 (Jan. 24); over Willcox twice, 55-20 (Dec. 20) and 53-8 (Jan. 28); and 44-34 over Morenci (Jan. 14); Morenci’s wins are over Willcox twice, 64-59 (Dec. 10) and 55-21 (Jan. 16), and 52-40 over Tombstone (Jan. 10); and Tombstone’s win is 30-26 over Willcox (Jan. 14).

Bisbee – 61, Morenci – 44

Seniors Dejah Montoya and Dereck Castaneda were crowned Winter Homecoming Queen and King, respectively, but the Wildcats were unable to secure a win for the evening.

Morenci led 12-11 following the opening period, lost the lead early in the second period and came back to tie at 13-13 within a minute.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Brigid Silvester dribbles toward the basket. The Morenci senior totaled 47 points in the most recent four games, contributing 19 against Bisbee on Feb. 1.

Bisbee went ahead 19 seconds later, lost the advantage within seconds and trailed by five before coming back to tie at 19-19. The lead changed twice more before Bisbee went ahead to stay 26-24 with 1:46 left in the first half. The Pumas led 31-24 at halftime and 44-32 heading into the fourth period. The visitors had a 17-11 final period outing to leave town with a region win.

Morenci totaled 11 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 19-32 free throws versus 25 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 7-21 free throws by Bisbee.

Senior Brigid Silvester netted 19 points on six field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 4-5 free throws and sophomore and junior Destanee Marquez 11 on one field goal plus 9-13 free throws. Junior Zenayah Cortez added eight points, sophomore Devanie Medina five, and senior Desiree Babb one.

For Bisbee, freshman Gabby Lopez had 19 points on eight field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 2-8 free throws and sophomore Alexia Lopez 10 on five field goals plus 1-4 free throws. Junior Jimena Valdez added nine points, junior Kiera Lumpkin eight, junior Brynn Lumpkin six, senior Jeritzia Valenzuela five, junior Melissa Vallegas three.

Thatcher – 57, Morenci – 28

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A Thatcher Eagle recovers the ball and turns to head up the court. Morenci seniors Monica Gonzalez (11) and Yrliana Molina (3) switch from offense to defense. Thatcher prevailed 57-28 on Jan. 31.

Morenci outscored its hosts 11-8 in the fourth quarter. But, the Wildcats had single-digit scoring through the first three quarters while the Eagles were in double figures in the same span. The result was Thatcher led 16-6 after the first quarter, 29-10 at halftime, and 39-17 heading into the fourth quarter.

Morenci connected on 11 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 4-7 free throws compared to 24 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 6-14 free throws by Thatcher.

Silvester contributed nine points, Cortez eight, Marquez six, Medina and freshman Delicia Roybal two each, and Babb one.

For Thatcher, freshman Ashlyn Thompson had 14 points on seven field goals plus 0-2 free throws and senior Taya Baldwin 10 on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 1-2 free throws. Sophomore Olivia Lunt added eight points, junior Cassidy Wakefield seven, junior Marleigh Nichols six, senior Briley Minor for, juniors Mia Carter and Karlee Lord three apiece, and senior Eliza Baron two.

PCDS – 38, Morenci – 36

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Destanee Marquez zeros in on a free throw attempt against Bisbee. Morenci junior made 9-13 to end with 11 points.

Morenci turned in a 15-9 fourth-quarter effort but fell short of a tie.

“We had two chances in the closing seconds,” Ortega said.

The Wildcats led 10-8 after the first quarter while the host Eagles led 17-13 at halftime and 29-21 at the start of the final quarter.

Morenci netted 11 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 11-21 free throws while Phoenix Country Day had 12 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 11-19 free throws.

Cortez sank 16 points on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 7-13 free throws. Silvester added nine points, Medina four, freshman Mia Ontiveros three, and both Babb and Marquez two each.

For the Eagles, freshman Jadyn Jones had 15 points on six field goals plus 3-5 free throws and senior Natalie Lewis 10 on three field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-6 free throws. Junior Eesha Narwani added six points, junior Leah Schroeder three, junior Sanya Mittal two, and both freshmen Niamh Campbell and Nara Kaibara one each.

Pima – 58, Morenci – 39

Morenci led 14-12 after the first period, but a 7-19 second period outing left the Wildcats trailing 21-31 at halftime. The visitors were a point short of the hosts in the third period to trail 33-44 at the start of the final period. Pima had a 14-6 fourth period outing to assure a region win.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci seniors Dejah Montoya and Dereck Castaneda were crowned Winter Ball Queen and King, respectively. Junior Lanea Leonard was the princess and sophomore Richard Trott III prince. The coronation was held during halftime of the boy’s basketball game with Bisbee on Feb. 1.

The Wildcats lost more than a game in Pima. They lost two members with season-ending leg injuries. Sophomore starter Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar and senior reserve Sarina Robledo were injured during the game. Following medical examinations, both are out for the season. One is wearing a boot and the other a restrictive brace.

Morenci totaled 15 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 5-22 free throws compared to 19 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 14-24 free throws by Pima.

Cortez had 12 points on five field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 1-7 free throws, and Marquez 10 on five field goals plus 0-2 free throws, and Silvester 10 on two 3-pointers plus 4-9 free throws. Aguilar added four points, Ontiveros three, and both Babb and Medina two each.

For Pima, sophomore Saydee Allred had 24 points on seven field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 8-9 free throws and junior Nevaeh Grant 19 on six field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 5-8 free throws. Sophomore Aubrie Sherwood added eight points, sophomore Ashlie Sherwood five, and sophomore Maya Mattice two. Senior Harley Lofgreen went 0-3 from the free-throw line.