Pima escapes Thatcher with a 60-58 win

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Grant Ashby (2) drives on Landon Duncan (3). Pima held on to defeat Thatcher on Thursday night, 60-58.

By Jon Johnson


Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

THATCHER – For the second time this year fans were treated to a barn-burner, playoff-type basketball game that went down to the final possession between Pima and Thatcher on Thursday. 

And for the second time this year, the Roughriders emerged victorious as they swept the Eagles with a 60-58 victory.

Pima hosted Benson on Friday and defeated the Bobcats 77-47. 

“We have three losses on the season,” said Pima head coach Cliff Thompson to Thatcher head coach Kyle Hull in a post-game interview with the Gila Herald. “Two of our wins could have easily been losses to you guys . . . I feel like Thatcher is the wildcard of the 3A playoffs.”  

Pima (9-0 2A East, 18-3 overall) previously defeated Thatcher (7-0 3A South, 13-7 overall) 47-45 to capture the 59th annual Boys Eastern Arizona Holiday Tournament on Dec. 29, 2022.

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Pima’s Pierce Ashby bodies up Thatcher’s Bradley Curtis, while Pima’s Seth Russell readies for help defense.

The Roughriders will next travel to play the Willcox Cowboys in a regional game on Monday, Jan. 30, starting at 7 p.m.  

The defeat snapped an eight-game win streak for Thatcher, who is still in control of the 3A South.

“It’s just fun to be a part of that – the atmosphere – all the people who are in the stands who are here – it’s crazy,” said Thatcher head coach Kyle Hull. “And to have a chance to win it and a chance to tie it in the end, that’s all you can ask for.”

The Eagles will next travel to Tucson to take on the Palo Verde Magnet Titans in a regional game on Tuesday, Jan. 3, starting at 7 p.m. The Titans just beat Safford, 70-59, on Friday. Thatcher’s last regular-season home game will be on Feb. 3 versus the Empire Ravens. 

“Our goal was to win out, obviously, just to help our chances just to get a higher seed (in the playoffs),” Hull said. “We’ve got a couple more region opponents and Coolidge will be a big one at the end. They’re three or four in the standings, so if we can get that one that will definitely help us.”

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Brandon Napier drives to the bucket.

Pima 60 – Thatcher 58

In what ended up being a nail-biter, thrilling game to watch, the Pima Roughriders muscled their way to a 13-point lead with 2 minutes to play in the third only to see them escape with the win after Thatcher’s game-winning 3-point attempt went long and the buzzer-beating putback bounced off. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Seth Russell puts it in for 2.

Pima’s center Seth Russell was huge for the Roughriders. He finished with a double-double, going a perfect 6-6 from the field (5-8 free throws) for a team-high 17 points to go with 14 rebounds (9 offensive). 

Pima went to Russell early and often down low, and when they weren’t doing that Coy Miller was showing off his skill set. Miller (15 points) hit two of his three deep balls in the opening period to help give Pima an 18-11 lead.

Thatcher’s all-everything center Bradley Curtis had a tough night as Pima threw big man after big man after him, including Pierce Ashby, Seth Russell, Nathan Skiba, and Garrett Curtis. The wall of defenders limited Bradley to just 3-10 shooting from the field, but he made up for it at the free-throw line, where he went 11-14 for a game-high 19 points. 

Along with Bradley’s free throws, Christian Carter (16 points) kept Thatcher in it early by nailing a trey with Coy Miller all up in his grill and by hitting a couple of layups. Carter – who was a perfect 4-4 from the field – was joined by the ever-exciting Brandon Napier, who slashed and dashed his way to the rim for 15 points, including 9 from Downtown. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Bradley Curtis gets the block on Seth Russell.

Grant Ashby came on in the second period for Pima and hit a big 3-pointer to stretch the lead. Grant finished with 13 points on 5-15 shooting from the field and 2-4 from the free-throw line and Pima took a 33-28 lead into halftime. 

In the third period, Garrett Curtis (15 points) showed off his mid-range jumper game and with Miller nailing the deep ball and Grant and Russell still scoring, Pima opened up a 13-point lead (49-36) with about 2 minutes left in the third period.

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Coy Miller drives the lane for 2 of his 15 points.

Then the Thatcher defense went to work but Russell still cleaned enough glass to keep Pima up 51-42 at the end of the third. 

The Eagles’ defensive intensity turned up and for a while, Pima couldn’t even inbound the ball as Thatcher stole three inbound attempts. 

Down 10 with 6:30 to play, Napier hit a jumper and then took a steal coast-to-coast for the bucket. Later on, Bradley stole another inbounds attempt and ended up finding Napier for the bucket as Thatcher was down just 3 points. 

But Pima struck back with Russell getting a huge putback off a Grant miss and then the dagger from deep – Garrett Curtis says ‘game’ and drops a 3 in style. 

Still, Thatcher never gave up hope and got another turnover down 4 with 50 seconds left. Christian Carter was then fouled on a drive and hit both free throws to cut it to 60-58. Thatcher then eventually fouled Coy Miller with 8.5 seconds to play. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Thatcher head coach Kyle Hull relays instruction to Bradley Curtis during the game.

Miller missed the front end of a 1-1 and Russell and Bradley battled to a jump ball for the rebound. The possession arrow favored Thatcher, and the Eagles would have one last shot, down 2, with the length of the court to go and just 7.7 seconds left to play. 

Napier received the inbounds and brought the ball up the court. He made a move to the right but began to fall. He then passed it to Brett Jones who had a good look at a deep, game-winning 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds on the clock but it was long and bounced off the backboard. Cody Jones was down low for the rebound, but with time expiring he rushed his put-back attempt and it just bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded and Pima escaped with the 60-58 victory. Like and follow The Gila Herald on Facebook for more pics.

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Brett Jones’ 3-point attempt with just 2.2 seconds left in the game sailed long.

Pima 77 – Benson 47

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Garrett Curtis and the Pima Roughriders defeated Benson 77-47.

Pima had to turn it around after the thriller in Thatcher and took on the Benson Bobcats the very next day in Pima, handling their business 77-47.

Pierce Ashby was the high man for Pima and scored a double-double with 14 points on 7-10 shooting from the field and 11 rebounds. 

His brother, Grant Ashby, finished with 13 points on 6-7 shooting from the field and 6 rebounds. Seth Russell had 12 points on 6-8 shooting; Garrett Curtis had 10 points on 5-9 shooting, and Coy Miller had 7 points on 3-8 shooting.   

In other local prep hoops action: 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Christian Carter shoots for 2 against Pima.

The Safford Bulldogs (3-4 3A South, 10-12 overall) fell to Palo Verde Magnet 59-70. The Bulldogs next travel to face Round Valley on Monday, Jan. 30, starting at 6 p.m. 

The Morenci Wildcats (7-2 2A East, 15-9 overall) fell to the Round Valley Elks on Jan. 25, 40-58. The Wildcats will next travel to Tombstone on Monday to take on the Yellow Jackets, starting at 7 p.m. 

The Fort Thomas Apaches (7-2 1A Copper, 15-9 overall) defeated the Mogollon Mustangs 74-60 on Saturday. The Apaches’ final regular-season game will be versus the Dishchii’bikoh Wildcats on Tuesday, Jan. 31, starting at 7 p.m. 

The 1A East/Copper Boys Basketball Super Regional Tournament will take place Feb. 2 – 4, at Fort Thomas High School. 

The Duncan Wildkats (4-2 1A Tucson Southeast, 10-14 overall) finished their regular season with a 45-27 victory over the Superior Panthers on Saturday.