Pima, Willcox open 44th annual Eastern Arizona Girls Holiday Tourney on Thursday

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Willcox junior Jordyn Rhinehart defends against Pima senior Raely Brown for a possible rebound during the 2018 EAC Girls Holiday Tourney.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

THATCHER – Seventh seed Willcox takes on second seed Pima in the opening game of the three-day 44th annual Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney on Thursday, Dec. 12 at 1 p.m., and eighth seed Duncan faces top seed San Carlos at 2:30 p.m. The second session has fourth seed Safford taking on fifth seed Morenci at 6:30 p.m., and third seed Thatcher versus sixth seed Fort Thomas at 8 p.m.

Thus far in games played through Friday, Dec. 6, Pima is 2-1 overall (2-1 seeding, 1-0 2A East Region) and averaging a 59-49 (178-146) score per game or a 10-point margin, Willcox 3-3 (0-2, 0-2 2A East Region) and averaging a 32-38 (189-225) score per game or a 6-point deficit, Duncan 3-4 (1-2, 0-0 1A East Region) and averaging a 30-32 (207-223) score per game or 2-point deficit, and San Carlos 5-0 (5-0, 2-0 2A South Region) and is averaging a 70-43 (349-213) score per game or a 27-point margin.

Safford is 1-2 (1-2, 0-0 3A South Region) and averaging a 42-58 (126-174) score per game or a 16-point deficit, Morenci 1-1 (1-1, 0-1 2A East Region) and averaging a 40-42 (80-83) score per game or 2-point deficit, Thatcher 2-0 (2-0, 1-0 2A East Region) and averaging a 54-37 (107-73) score per game or a 17-point margin, and Fort Thomas 0-3 (0-3, 0-0 1A East Region) and averaging a 55-63 (165-189) score per game or 8-point deficit.

All eight teams play Tuesday, Dec. 10. Duncan hosts Winkelman Hayden, Fort Thomas welcomes Kearny Ray, San Carlos entertains San Manuel, Thatcher takes on Bisbee, and Willcox meets Morenci, while Pima visits Benson and Safford travels to Snowflake.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Pima junior Kassandra Velasquez holds the ball up while looking for an open teammate during the 2018 tourney.

Last year, seven of the eight teams were still playing after the conclusion of the regular season. Safford was 19-8 overall (13-5 seeding for No. 9 of 40, 7-3 region for 3rd of six) and ended with a 59-76 first-round loss to Chinle, San Carlos 23-4 (18-0 for No. 1 of 48, 14-0 for 1st of seven) and ended with a 43-53 quarterfinal loss to Saint Johns, Thatcher 20-7 (14-2 for No. 7 of 48, 12-0 for 1st of seven) and ended with a 19-29 quarterfinal loss to Chandler Prep, and Morenci 9-16 (6-11 for No. 27 of 48, 5-7 for 5th of seven) and ended with a 40-46 region tourney loss to Bisbee.

Willcox was 6-18 overall (4-12 for No. 30 of 48, 3-9 for 6th of seven) and ended with a 26-60 region tourney loss to Benson, Pima 14-14 (9-9 for No. 21 of 48, 8-4 for 2nd of seven) and ended with a 61-62 overtime loss to Tucson Desert Christian in a play-in game, Fort Thomas 21-9 (16-3 for No. 4 of 36, 7-0 for 1st of eight) and ended with a 30-59 quarterfinal loss to Heber Mogollon, and Duncan 3-19 (3-16 for No. 27 of 36, 2-5 for 6th of eight) and ended with the conclusion of the regular season.

2018 tourney results

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Safford left Guitteau Gymnasium with the girls 43rd annual Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney first place trophy. The Bulldogs defeated Duncan 48-12 in round one, Fort Thomas 57-26 in the semifinals, and San Carlos 52-45 in the final. Members of the Bulldogs’ team were, from left, head coach Robert Abalos, Analysa Schilling, Kasiah Schilling, Brinley Kempton, Mikenzi Drage, Deion Abalos, Analysa Montez, Mia Carter, Jessica Bright-Shade, Cambry Cluff, Brooke Lucas, Rachel Fox, and assistant coach Wade Pedro.

The same eight teams comprised the tourney field last year. Top seed Safford topped third seed San Carlos 52-35 for the title, fourth seed Fort Thomas 57-26 in the semifinals, and eighth seed Duncan 48-12 in the first round.

San Carlos reached the championship game with wins of 76-36 over sixth seed Morenci in the first round and 67-60 over Thatcher in the semifinals.

Fort Thomas defeated Thatcher 58-51 for third place, fifth seed Pima topped seventh seed Willcox 46-29 for fifth place, and Morenci pulled away from Duncan 50-35 for seventh place.

Advancing in the consolation round were Willcox and Pima with wins of 42-24 over Morenci and 49-14 over Duncan, respectively.

The other first-round winners were Thatcher (67-31 over Willcox) and Fort Thomas (52-42 over Pima).

2018 All-tourney team

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Selected to the 15-member 43rd annual EAC Holiday all-tourney team were, from left, Deon Abalos, Analysa Montez, and Jessica Bright-Shade of Safford; Alani Blair of Pima; Payton Damron of Duncan; Taya Baldwin and Brooklyn Angle of Thatcher; Tapanga Alexander of Willcox; Kyia Haws and Normisha Moses of Fort Thomas; Heaven Cosen, Aaliyah Haozous, and Alyssa Martin of San Carlos. Not pictured are Mia Carter of Safford and Brigid Silvester of Morenci.

Safford senior Analysa Montez, junior Jessica Bright-Schade, and sophomore Mia Carter along with San Carlos juniors Heaven Cosen, Aaliyah Haozous, and Alyssa Martin were selected to the all-tourney team.

Bulldogs’ senior Deion Abalos was tabbed Most Valuable Player for the third time.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Safford senior Deion Abalos battles San Carlos junior Alyssa Martin for rebound position. Abalos netted a game-high 17 points, earned a third M.V.P. award, and became the school’s initial four-time all-tourney selection. Martin also was named all-tourney and had 10 points for the Braves.

The rest of the all-tourney team included Fort Thomas senior Normisha Moses and sophomore Kyia Haws; Thatcher senior Brooklynn Angle and junior Taya Baldwin, Pima senior Alia Blair, Willcox junior Tapanga Alexander, Morenci junior Brigid Sylvester, and Duncan senior Payton Damron.

Four-time selectee Abalos was also co-Most Valuable Player in 2017 as a junior and the 2015 M.V.P. as a freshman; three-time selectee Angle was also honored in 2017 and 2016, and Baldwin and Moses were also honored in 2017.

Tourney Records

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Duncan senior Payton Damron controls the ball as Morenci sophomore Candace Forgach-Aguilar attempts a steal. Damron and Morenci junior Brigid Silvester (12) were selected to the all-tourney team. Morenci pulled away from Duncan 50-35 to finish seventh in the 2018 tourney.

It was the top-seeded Bulldogs’ 25th tourney finale appearance, the 16th title, and the fifth in a row. Safford won three straight from 1983-85 (8th-10th).

Thatcher is 12-9 in title games and has the meet record for most consecutive title wins, seven from 1997 – 2003 (22nd-28th).

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: A Willcox Cowgirl draws Pima defenders, freshmen Abbie Sherwood (10) and Saydee Allred (14), as she heads into the lane during the 2018 tourney.

Beginning as a four-team, two-day meet with two games each day during the nation’s 1976 bicentennial year, the ensuing 43 tourneys included eight teams with four games in three days. Morenci defeated Clifton 55-42 for the title after the Wildcats topped Thatcher 56-11 and the Trojans downed Safford 29-15 on the first day. Safford ended third with a 33-21 win over Thatcher.

Safford is 92-35 overall as the Bulldogs played only two games in the 1998 meet because the seventh-place game was not held.

Thatcher is 87-41 during 43 tourneys, Duncan 54-72 and Willcox 51-76 during 42 tourneys, Pima 64-56 and Fort Thomas 57-63 during 40 tourneys, Morenci 57-59 during 39 tourneys, and San Carlos 2-1 in one tourney.

Nine other teams have also participated, Clifton (19-72) in 31 tourneys, Miami (3-12) and New Mexico Cliff (9-6) in five tourneys, both Globe (5-1) and San Simon (1-5) in two tourneys, and Ajo (1-2), Eagar Round Valley (1-2), New Mexico Bayard Cobre (1-2), and Tucson Green Fields Country Day School (0-3) in one tourney apiece.

For a photo album of last year’s tournament, click here.

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