Safford boys destroy Catalina

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Jojo Ruelas lays one up against Catalina on Friday night. The Bulldogs defeated the Trojans 87-24.

Home opener is first victory for new coach Danny Smith

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – The Safford Bulldogs (1-0 conference, 1-1 overall) got the first win for new head coach Danny Smith in their home opener, easily defeating Catalina 87-24. 

“It was fun kicking the rust off,” Smith said. “We can beat a great team any one night. We can be the better team that night anyways.”

On Friday night, there was no doubt who the better team was that night as Safford scored 26 points in the first quarter before Catalina got on the board with a couple of free throws by Andrew Madera. The game was seemingly in the bag by the end of the first quarter with Safford up 31-5. 

Estevan Herrera led the way early and throughout with four of his 10 field goals in the first quarter. Herrera finished the contest with a game-high 20 points. 

Fresh on Herrera’s heels was Nate Quintero, who hit a 3-pointer and three other field goals in the first quarter on his way to a 19 point night. 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Brayden Bowman gets hacked on his shot attempt.

The Trojans scored 11 points in the second quarter but only managed 5 in the third and 3 in the fourth. While Safford kept the gas on and scored swiftly on fast-break opportunities following turnovers and long rebounds. After cruising to a 79-21 lead at the end of the third quarter, the entire fourth quarter was played with a nonstop clock (until the last minute of play) mercy rule. Still, Safford managed 8 more points to finish Catalina 87-24.  

The Bulldogs ran the floor all night, with others hitting buckets including Christian Smith with 13, Thomas Weathers with 8, Jojo Ruelas and Marcus Rope each with 7, Brayden Bowman with 6, Devon Donaldson with 4, Sylis Welchman with 2, and Luis Aguilar with 1.  

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Nathan Quintero gathers the ball for a layup.

For the Trojans, Alex Arriero led the way with 7 points, followed by Josh Nisinzi with 5, Gary Moritz and Jesus Marquez each with 3, and Andrew Madera, Marcello Allan, and Michael Miranda with 2 each. 

While his team may be in a rebuilding phase (Safford has only reached the playoffs twice in the last 10 years according to Smith) coach Smith said the one thing he doesn’t have to coach is effort and that one of their goals is to make the state playoffs this year. 

“The boys play super hard,” Smith said. “I don’t have to coach effort and that is so fulfilling. They just do it. They’re willing to work really hard.”

“We’re trying to build a culture (and) maintain a culture of success.” 

Safford will next travel to face their crosstown rival Thatcher Eagles (1-0) on Tuesday, Dec. 7, starting at 7 p.m. Thatcher is coming off an opening-season win on the road at the Alchesay Falcons, 78-41.

Click here to view the Gila Herald’s photo album of the game.  

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