Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima’s Sam Pippo drives the ball. Pima defeated St. Johns on Wednesday, 56-37, to keep its unblemished record.
Rubber match is tonight up north
By Jon Johnson
PIMA – The match between the No. 1 Pima Roughriders and the No. 3 St. Johns Redskins was all it was cracked up to be . . . for nearly three quarters that is.
The Roughriders utilized a 6-0 run to end the third quarter and then outscored the Redskins 17-7 in the fourth to pull away with the victory Wednesday night, 56-37.
“That’s probably one of the best teams that we’ll face all year,” said Pima head coach Roy Corona. “We struggled with their man-to-man defense a little bit until the second half and then our offense clicked and we got that lead.”
The win kept Pima unbeaten at 9-0 and sitting atop the 2A East Region with a 4-0 region mark. Pima is ranked as the top 2A team in the state, and St. Johns fell to number 4 as of Thursday’s rankings.
St. Johns came out fierce, however, and the teams traded buckets throughout the first quarter, with the Redskins going up by as much as 4 points in the quarter, 10-6.
However, Pima came back to score the last 5 points, including a 3-pointer by Sam Pippo – her lone bucket on the night.
The game was fast-paced with both teams breaking the other’s press defenses and scoring quickly. The back-and-forth continued throughout the second quarter, with Pima taking an 18-16 lead into halftime.
The trend spilled into the third quarter as well, until Nevaeh Grant swished a 3-pointer with about 6:25 left in the quarter to put Pima up 26-28. Grant went on to score 8 points on the night.
Grant’s 3-pointer was followed up by a rebound putback by Ashlyn Chlarson, who was her usual dominant self down low scoring 12 points on consistent play throughout.
St. Johns cut the lead to 30-28, but then Aubrie Sherwood willed her team to maintain its lead with a 3-point play the old-fashioned way by scoring the bucket while being fouled and then knocking down the free-throw. Aubrie – who finished with 9 in the third quarter and 11 for the game – hit 7 of Pima’s last 9 points in the quarter, with Grant connecting on the other field goal to put the Roughriders up 39-30 with one quarter to play. Saydee Allred also contributed to the third-quarter push by hitting two 3-pointers for her 6 points on the night.
“Our defense was amazing,” Ashlie Sherwood said. “We kept our fouls under control and our defense won us the game.”
Pima didn’t lift its foot from the gas in the fourth as Ashlie burst loose – scoring 12 of her game-high 16 in the quarter. Ashlie hit all of Pima’s fourth-quarter points except for two field goals, a 3-pointer by Grant that gave the Roughriders a 12 point lead with about 6 minutes left to play, and yet another rebound putback by Chlarson to extend the lead to 14.
“I think we finally just got our offense running and we started getting cuts and (hitting) the open man and running really, really good,” Ashlie said. “I’m really proud of my team. We’re going to go places and can’t wait for what it brings.”
Olivia Wiltbank led the way for St. Johns with 12 points, followed by Brooke Smith with 10, JoAnn Wahl with 6, Kinley Crosby with 4, Aubrie Wilson with 3, and Liberty Raban with 2.
In the end, the speed of Ashlie and her teammates was too much for the Redskins to overcome, and the Roughriders ran away with the victory, 56-37.
“I’m just proud of these girls,” Corona said. “They work their tails off every day for me, and to be 9-0 right now – it’s awesome.”
The two teams will face each other again Friday, Feb. 12, starting at 6 p.m. at St. Johns. Pima will then spend the night up north and play an afternoon game in Lakeside against the Blue Ridge Yellowjackets on Saturday, Feb. 13, starting at 2:30 p.m.
In other local girls hoops action:
The Thatcher Eagles (4-0 region, 6-2 overall) defeated the Round Valley Elks on Thursday, 45-35. Thatcher will host the Tucson Pusch Ridge Lions on Friday, Feb. 12, starting at 5:30 p.m. The Eagles sit atop the 3A South Central Region with Safford nipping at their talons in second place.
The Safford Bulldogs (4-1 region, 5-4 overall) defeated the Sabino Sabercats on the road, 50-44. Safford will next host the Miami Vandals on Friday, Feb. 12, starting at 5:30 p.m.
The Fort Thomas Apaches (1-0 region, 8-2 overall) defeated the Duncan Wildkats (1-2 region,5-7 overall) on Wednesday, 49-19. Fort Thomas is in first place in the 1A North East Region and will next travel to play the St. Michael Cardinals on Friday, Feb. 12, starting at 2:30 p.m. Duncan will next travel to face the Ray Bearcats on Saturday, Feb. 13, starting at 4:30 p.m.
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