Onto the championship!

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Lea Llamas steals the ball to seal the 48-42 victory over No. 2 San Carlos in the semifinals Friday. Pima will now face No. 1 Phoenix Country Day in the 2A Girls State Basketball Championship on Saturday.

Pima returns to the state championship game for the third year in a row

By Jon Johnson


PHOENIX – With a deafening crowd roaring for San Carlos so loud one couldn’t hear the officials’ whistle at times, No. 3 Pima emerged from a 40-40 tie about midway through the fourth period Friday morning to upset No. 2 San Carlos 48-42 to punch their ticket to a third straight 2A Girls Basketball State Championship game.

“We’re back in it,” exclaimed Pima head coach Roy Corona. “That’s amazing. That was a fun game. They’re good. The pressure hurt us, but we handled it at the end and got those layups. It was a good game.”

Pima will next play No. 1 Phoenix County Day, which defeated No. 5 Sedona Red Rock 60-45 in the other semifinal. The game will be held at Arizona Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, starting at 12 p.m. Get tickets through GoFan here.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima’s defense held San Carlos to just one bucket in the first period.

Pima 48 – San Carlos 42

Pima led nearly the entire game with San Carlos only briefly tieing the game about midway through the fourth period.

Ashlynn Chlarson led the way for Pima with 21 points and was the go-to during crunch time, breaking the 40-40 tie with a bucket and a couple of free throws. But it was Lea Llamas who both opened the game up for Pima in the first with 7 of her 14 points, and also sealed the victory with two consecutive steals and a couple of free throws.

“It was really crazy,” Llamas said. “It was really fun. This is like the best team ever. I’m glad we’re doing it all together with this team.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima head coach Roy Corona is back in the 2A Girls Basketball State Championship game for the third year in a row.

Pima’s defense held San Carlos to just one field goal in the first period and a free throw. Meanwhile, Llamas went off for Pima with an early bucket and a 3-pointer. She then was the recipient of a sweet pass from Adysen Hoopes with the assist and hit a fast-break layup to make it 14-3 Pima after one period.

The Roughriders stretched their lead in the second to 20-7 behind buckets from Chlarson, who was money in the paint all game.

About halfway through the period the Braves’ full-court pressure began to pay off and San Carlos utilized turnovers to claw their way back into the game.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Kylee Juan drives to the bucket for 2 of her team-high 15 points.

By the time Kylee Juan hit her and-1 bucket and free throw, it was just a 3-point game, 21-18 in favor of Pima, but not according to the intense crowd noise for the resurgent Braves. Juan terrorized Pima for a team-high 15 points.

Pima answered San Carlos’ run by hitting three consecutive 3’s, one by Llamas and two in a row by Ella Wiltbank, who finished with three for the game for 9 points and Pima went into the break up 30-18.

Normally, the third period is where Pima would separate themselves from other teams and put the games away. Not this time.

The third was owned by San Carlos, who came out with their intensity turned up to 11 as they won the period 18-7. Turnovers led to fast-break opportunities, and Juan kept scoring in the paint to bring San Carlos nearly all the way back.

Other scorers for San Carlos were Camryn Longstreet with 9, Ellysia Cutter with 8, Chastity Steele with 5, Jenessa Victor and Caylee Longstreet with 2 points each, and Chloe Wiley with 1.

The Braves were down just 3 when Wiltbank struck from deep again, but San Carlos battled back and as the third period ticked down and as they came within one point at the end of the third, 37-36, the stadium erupted in cheers and hollers.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Ashlynn Chlarson led all scorers with 21.

This isn’t to slight the vocal Pima fans by any means, they were just outmanned by more than a 2-1 advantage in the fan department.

It was under those conditions that Charlson and Llamas and the rest of the Roughriders pulled up their bootstraps and finished the game.

After Chlarson scored to put Pima up 44-40, Juan scored to bring it back to a 2-point game but Chalarson answered right back to extend it back to 4. Then Llamas stole the ball and was fouled on her fast-break layup attempt. She made one of two, and then stole the ball again and was fouled again, making one of two to end the game and send Pima to the State Championship game for the third year in a row. They are the back-to-back defending state champions.

“San Carlos fans are really loud but we just kept our energy up and we used that as motivation,” Llamas said.

Chlarson was on both of Pima’s championship teams in 2021 and 2022 and is looking for a third title.

“I’m really excited,” Chlarson said. “It’s going to be a tough game but I think we can do it again.”

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