Thatcher and Pima to face off for EA Boys Holiday Tourney Championship

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Bradley Curtis and the Thatcher Eagles will battle the Pima Roughriders for the 59th annual EA Boys Holiday Basketball Tournament Championship on Thursday at 8 p.m.

Final round of 59th E.A. Holiday Tourney begins at 1 p.m

By Raymundo Frasquillo and Jon Johnson

THATCHER – The No. 1 seed Pima Roughriders (8-2) will face the No. 3 seed Thatcher Eagles (6-5) for the championship of the 59th annual EA Boys Holiday Basketball Tournament at EAC’s Guitteau Gymnasium at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 29. It will be the 11th meeting of the two teams in the tourney finale, each having five previous wins over one another. 

The same two teams met for the championship last year, with Thatcher prevailing 45-38. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Seth Russell goes up for two.

This year, No. 3 Thatcher reached the final by defeating No. 6 Fort Thomas 72-41 in the opening round and No. 2 St. David 58-34 in the second round. 

No. 1 Pima reached the final by defeating No. 8 Duncan 75-33 in the opening round and No. 4 Safford 61-33 in the second round. The championship game will be held Thursday, Dec. 29, starting at 8 p.m. in Guitteau Gymnasium.  

Earlier second-round games saw Morenci defeat Duncan 67-52 and Fort Thomas defeat St. Johns 69-62. Duncan will face St. Johns for 7th Place on Thursday, Dec. 29, starting at 1 p.m., while Morenci will face Fort Thomas for 5th Place on Thursday, Dec. 29, starting at 6:30 p.m., and Safford will face St. David for 3rd Place on Thursday, Dec. 29, starting at 2:30 p.m. 

For more photos of the action from round 2 visit our Facebook page.

Game 7: No. 1 Pima 61, No. 4 Safford 33

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Garrett Curtis checks the scoreboard. Curtis led all scorers in his game with 20 points.

The Bulldogs hung around for a quarter but the combination of a clamp-down defense, Seth Russell pounding it down low and Garrett Curtis displaying the lost art of the mid-range jumper pushed Pima into a big first-half lead Safford could not recover from. 

Curtis was masterful in the mid-range, to a fault at one point when he pulled up when he probably should have continued on for a layup. But it is something to behold, and when Pima was in need it was Curtis who stepped up, scoring two and-one plays in a row in the first period to give Pima a 14-10 first-period lead. Curtis then went for 8 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth period to seal the victory. 

In the second and third periods, it was Russell carrying the load for Pima as he battled down low in the trenches and hit all 13 of his points in those two periods.

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Garrett Curtis shoots a reverse layup.

Garrett Curtis broke an early 4-4 tie with 3:24 elapsed, Safford’s Jeramiah Garcia countered with a 3-pointer (6-7) 1:43 later, and a Curtis field goal plus free throw gave the Roughriders the lead for good (9-7) with 2:42 left in the opening quarter. Curtis accounted for eight points in the first eight minutes of play.

Pima led 14-10 after the opening quarter, 31-16 at halftime, and 40-22 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Roughriders connected on 26 field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-4 free throws while the Bulldogs made 14 field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 2-2 free throws.

 A number of Pima players saw actions and scored, including Keegan Corona with 7, Pierce Ashby with 6, Grant Ashby with 5, Clark Ashby with 3, Coy Miller, Leland Thompson, and Nathan Skiba with 2 each, and Riley Alder with 1 point. 

For Safford, the long ball kept them close in the first period, but single-point outputs of just 6 points in both the second and third periods set their fate. 

Nathaniel Quintero continued his bid to be on the All-Tournament team with a solid 12-point performance that showed off some nifty moves. Brayden Bowman battled among the trees all night and came away with 8 points of his own to show for it. Other Safford scorers included Jeramiah Garcia with 5, and Cole Yentsch and C. Goodman had 4 points each. 

Game 8: No. 3 Thatcher 58, No. 2 St. David 34

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher head coach Kyle Hull is animated as he takes in the action.

The Thatcher Eagles handed the St. David Tigers their first loss of the season and did so in convincing fashion. 

Thatcher scored twice within the first two minutes (4-0), Saint David made its initial field goal with 2:15 elapsed (2-4), came within two twice more during the next four minutes, at 4-6 with 4:17 elapsed, and at 6-8 with 5:42 elapsed, but never tied or led the entire game.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Bradley Curtis wins the tip.

The Tigers were unable to score in double-digits during either of the first two quarters. Thatcher led 14-8 following the first quarter, 29-12 at halftime, and 43-29 heading into the fourth quarter.

Thatcher connected on 22 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 10-14 free throws compared to 15 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 0-2 free throws by Saint David.

The game served as a coming-out party for Thatcher guard Brandon Napier, who appears to be making that adjustment from football to basketball now. Napier was deadly from beyond the arc with three 3-pointers and also attacked the rim – getting to the line and scoring 3-3 free throws on his way to a game-high 19 points.

“He’s practiced one day for us and then he got some game time,” said Thatcher head coach Kyle Hull. “That’s what we were hoping to get – some legs under him. We got him a little more tonight. We’ll see how he feels.” 

Despite being double-teamed down low, Bradley Curtis still had 18 “quiet” points on a night when he seemed to get his without much noise. 

Steve Carter Photo/Special to the Gila Herald: Cody Jones makes his move.

Cody Jones also had a big night pressing the basket and had 11 points. Other scorers for Thatcher included Christian Carter with 11 points, Landon Duncan, and Bryce Larson with 2 points each, and Daniel Jones with 1 point. 

The Eagles’ defense held the high-scoring Tigers to just 8 points in the first period and 6 points in the second to more than double up St. David at the half, 30-14.

“Defense, that’s what we talked about,” said Hull. “Defense was our game plan and I just thought they did a good job playing defense which turned into offense.” 

St. David came out fighting in the third and won the period 15-13 behind buckets from Koy Richardson (13 points) and deep balls from Wyatt Judd (10 points) and Paul Parker. St. David’s other Richardson, Koy, was held to 6 points on the night, and Matteo Carrafa had 4 for the Tigers.

“They (Richardsons) like to shoot and we knew they could get to the rim but we just preached defense and we put our better defenders on them and they did their job,” Hull said. “They did what we asked them to do.” 

The Eagles will now defend their tournament championship against the Pima Roughriders on Thursday, Dec. 29 at Guitteau Gymnasium at EAC, starting at 8 p.m.    

Game 5: No. 6 Fort Thomas – 69, No. 7 Saint Johns – 62

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Fort Thomas head coach Mathew Dona goes over strategy with junior Carmelo Robertson (15) and senior Geron Talgo (34) during a timeout. The Apaches led 32-21 at halftime en route to a 69-62 consolation semifinal win over Saint Johns. The sixth seed Apaches meet Morenci for fifth place Thursday, Dec. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Michael Stanley drilled a 3-pointer 21 seconds into the game to give Fort Thomas the initial lead, but Saint Johns turned in a 15-7 effort to lead 15-10 at the end of the first quarter.

A pair of Geron Talgo field goals, one from both outside and inside the arc, tied the score with 38 seconds elapsed in the second quarter. The Apaches added seven more field goals, four inside and three outside versus three field goals plus 2-2 free throws by the Redskins, giving Fort Thomas a 22-6 second quarter and 32-21 halftime advantage.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Jordan Winters (1) attacks the basket against Fort Thomas seniors Jayshawn Rambler (25) and Michael Stanley (45). The Saint Johns senior scored a game-high 23 points in a losing effort to the Apaches. Stanley had 13 points and Rambler 10.

Fort Thomas led by 14 (56-32) after three quarters, but Jordan Winters’ second dunk of the afternoon got Saint Johns within five, 55-60 with 2:03 left to play, but no closer. The Apaches had an 8-7 edge in the remaining time to win by seven.

For the game, Fort Thomas tossed in 24 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 13-23 free throws compared to 24 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 11-17 free throws by Saint Johns.

Eight Apaches contributed to the scoring total with four in double figures. Michael Stanley had 13 points on four field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 2-4 free throws, Justin Olivar 12 on five field goals (two 3-pointers), Channing Wilson 12 on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-4 free throws, and Jayshawn Rambler 10 on three field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-3 free throws. Tyler Black added nine points, Justin Olivar five, and both Carmelo Robertson and Kyle Secody four apiece.

For Saint Johns, Wyatt Judd had 23 points on 10 field goals plus 3-5 free throws. Tristen Mineer added nine points, Braeden Wall six, Jay Wahl four, and both Gabe Alford and Preston Lindsey two each.

Game 6: No. 5 Morenci – 67, No. 8 Duncan – 49

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Derick Lytle (13) attempts a free throw against Duncan. The Morenci freshman connected on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 8-10 free throws to score a team-high 17 points.

A Daylen Johnson 3-pointer with 35 seconds elapsed put Morenci ahead to stay. Benjamin Harris got Duncan within one 21 seconds later, a Tristen Sanchez 3-pointer tripled (6-2) the difference with 2:04 elapsed, and a Brody Waters 3-pointer 1:24 later again narrowed the difference to one (6-5). Duncan neither tied nor took the lead during the entire game.

Morenci led 18-10 after a quarter and 41-21 at halftime, but a 9-21 third-quarter effort reduced the margin to single digits (50-42) heading into the fourth quarter.

A pair of Derick Lytle free throws 1:14 into the fourth quarter put the difference in double figures for good.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Tristen Sanchez defends against an interior pass by Duncan senior Logan Basteen. Sanchez netted 15 points and Basteen six.

Morenci totaled 24 field goals (nine 3-pointers) plus 10-15 free throws compared to 19 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 8-10 free throws by Duncan.

Lytle ended with 17 points on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 8-10 free throws, Sanchez 15 on six field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 2-5 free throws, and Johnson 11 on four field goals (three 3-pointers). Noah Chavez added six points, Austin Hudman five, Derek Saenz four, Christopher Lopez three, and Yedidia Luputa-Kanyinda, Adrian McCallum, and Marco Muniz two apiece.

For Duncan, Waters had 20 points on six field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 3-4 free throws, and Harris 14 on six field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 1-2 free throws. Logan Basteen, Isaac Harris, and Isiah Sumner added six points apiece.