Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Safford hoisted the first-place trophy for the girls 42nd Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney on Dec. 16, 2017. The Bulldogs hope to repeat at champions during this year’s tournament. Members of the 2017 Robert Abalos-coached team were, from left, Rachel Fox, Aneesa Molina, Madison Mullins, Deon Abalos, Anna Montez, Jessica Bright-Schade, Brinley Kempton, Cambry Cluff, Mia Carter, and Jessica Maxwell.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
THATCHER – Thatcher and Willcox open the three-day, eight-team girls 43rd annual Eastern Arizona Holiday Basketball Tournament in Guitteau Gymnasium at Eastern Arizona College, beginning Thursday, Dec. 13.
Tip-off is 1 p.m. with Safford versus Duncan at 2:30 p.m. in the second game of the first session. The second session has Fort Thomas versus Pima at 6:30 p.m. and Morenci vs. first-time meet entrant San Carlos at 8 p.m.
Thatcher (5-1 overall, 5-1 seeding, 3-0 2A East Region) has averaged a score of 58-42 (345-250) per game or a margin of 16 points. The Eagles have wins of 55-52 over Lakeside BlueRidge (Nov. 27), 70-2 at Tombstone (Dec. 1), 78-65 at Bisbee (Dec. 4), 39-38 at Florence (Dec, 6), and 51-32 over Willcox (Dec. 11). The lone loss has been 61-52 to Safford (Nov. 28).
Willcox (2-8, 1-5, 0-3) has averaged a score of 31-43 (314-428) per game or a deficit of 12 points. The Cowgirls have wins of 56-23 over the Academy of Tucson (Nov. 21) and 36-34 atBowie / San Simon (Nov. 29). The losses have been 35-50 to Kearny Ray (Nov.19), 36-45 to Sells Baboquivari and 20-29 to Tucson Immaculate Heart on Nov. 20, 27-45 to Tucson Desert Christian (Nov. 27), 17-50 to Globe (Nov. 30), 17-57 to Benson (Dec. 3), 41-44 in overtime at Morenci (Dec. 4), and 32-51 at Thatcher (Dec. 11).
Safford (6-2, 4-0, 0-0 3A South Region) enters the meet with a 51-39 (411-311) average score per game or a margin of 12 points. The Bulldogs have wins of 58-51 over Douglas (Nov. 20),61-52 at Thatcher (Nov. 28), 44-27 over Florence (Nov. 29), 49-36 over Snowflake (Dec. 4), 58-20 over Mayer (Dec. 6), and 66-37 over Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa (Dec. 7). The losses have been 42-43 to Pinon (Dec. 6) and 33-45 to Florence (Dec. 8).
Duncan (1-6, 1-6, 0-0 1A East Region) has averaged a 24-43 (165-300) score per game or a deficit of 19 points. The Wildkats defeated the Academy of Tucson 43-26 (Dec. 6). The losses have been 16-48 at Elfrida Valley Union (Nov. 26), 23-33 to Bowie / San Simon (Nov. 27), 8-41 to Immaculate Heart (Nov. 29), 27-41 at Winkelman Hayden (Dec.4), 35-59 at Cibecue (Dec. 8), and 13-52 at Fort Thomas (Dec. 11).
Fort Thomas (5-2, 5-2, 0-0 1A East Region) brings a 51-39 (354-274) average score per game or a margin of 12 points. The Apaches have defeated Pima 45-43 (Nov. 20), Patagonia 46-17 (Nov. 27), Saint David 65-44 (Nov. 30), Cibecue 50-32 (Dec. 7), and Duncan 52-13 (Dec. 11). The losses have been 46-55 at Kearny Ray (Dec. 4) and 50-70 at San Carlos (Dec. 6).
Pima (2-5, 2-5, 2-2 2A East Region) has averaged a 40-39 (278-271) score per game or a margin of one point. The Roughriders downed Tombstone 60-3 (not a typo, that was really the score) (Dec. 3) and Benson 43-36 (Dec. 4). The losses have been 43-45 to Fort Thomas (Nov. 20), 35-42 at Bisbee (Nov. 27), 23-48 at Scottsdale Christian (Dec. 1), 48-56 to Morenci (Dec. 7), and 26-41 to Show Low (Dec. 11).
Morenci (3-2, 3-2, 2-1) has a 46-41 (229-205) average score per game or a margin of five points. The Wildcats topped the Willcox Cowgirls 44-41 in overtime (Dec. 4), the Roughriders 56-48 in Pima (Dec. 7), and the North Valley Christian Lions 55-10 in Phoenix (Dec. 10). The losses have been 35-64 at Ray (Nov. 27) and 39-42 to Bisbee (Dec. 1).
Unbeaten San Carlos (6-0, 6-0,2-0 2A South Region) has a 78-45 (466-272) average score per game or a 33-point margin. The Braves’ wins have been 80-79 in overtime over Gilbert Leading Edge (Nov. 27), 72-67 at Whiteriver Alchesay (Nov. 30), 58-43 at Desert Christian (Dec. 4), 70-50 over Fort Thomas (Dec. 6), 96-10 over Tucson Santa Rita (Dec.7), and 90-23 over San Manuel (Dec. 11).
2017 tourney results
Top-seed Safford outlasted third-seed Thatcher 72-48 for the title of the 42nd Eastern Arizona Holiday Tournament. Safford defeated eighth-seed Duncan 60-10 in the first round and fifth-seed Pima 71-53 in the semifinals. Thatcher reached the championship contest with wins of 47-22 over sixth-seed Morenci in the first round and 46-37 over second-seed Fort Thomas in the semifinals.
Fort Thomas topped Pima 47-37 for third place, fourth-seed New Mexico Cliff ran away from Willcox 58-34 for fifth place, and Morenci bested Duncan 44-20 for seventh place.
Advancing in the consolation round were Cliff and Willcox with wins of 52-8 over Duncan and 47-40 over Morenci, respectively.
The other first-round winners were Fort Thomas (54-37 over Willcox) and Pima (50-44 over Cliff).
Safford Class of 2018 member Madison Mullins along with Corinne Bryce (2018), Brooklynn Angle (2019), and Taya Baldwin (2020) of Thatcher were selected to the all-tourney team.
Aneesa Molina (2018) and Deon Abalos (2019) of Safford were tabbed co-most valuable players, the third duo in meet history. DeDawn Lovett and Lisa Reed of Duncan as well as Shila Lines and Vicky DeMuth of Thatcher were so honored in 1995 and 1997, respectively.
The rest of the all-tourney team included Kiatlynn Hinton (2018) and Normisha Moses (2019) of Fort Thomas, McCall Thygerson (2018) and Emily Warn (2018) of Pima, Kaitlynn Trotter (2019) of Cliff, Danielle Barba (2018) of Willcox, Ashley Hernandez (2018) of Morenci, and Keeley Wagley (2018) of Duncan.
Three-time selectee Abalos was also the 2015 M.V.P. as a freshman; and two-time selectees Angle, Barba, and Thygerson were also honored in 2016, and in 2015, respectively.
It was the top-seeded Bulldogs’ 24th tourney finale appearance, the 15th title, the fourth in a row, and the sixth win in 11 championship pairings with the Eagles. Safford won three straight from 1983-85 (8th-10th).
Thatcher is 12-9 in title games but 0-5 in its most recent five qualifiers. The teams have both participated in each of the previous 41 meets with Safford posting an 89-35overall record and Thatcher 86-39. The Bulldogs played only two games in the 1998 meet because the
Thatcher has the meet record for most consecutive title wins, seven from 1997 – 2003 (22nd-28th).
The top two seeds have met for the title in three of the most recent five years, second-seed Cliff bested top-seed Thatcher 40-30 in 2013 and second-seed Safford downed top-seed Thatcher 35-20 in 2014.
It was the fifth straight year with the same eight teams, Safford is 14-1, Thatcher 10-4, Cliff 9-6, Fort Thomas and Morenci both 8-7, Pima 6-9, Duncan 4-11, and Willcox 1-14 in the same five-year span.
Beginning as a four-team, two-day meet with two games each day during the nation’s 1976 bicentennial year, the ensuing 41 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.
Duncan is 54-69 and Willcox 50-74 during 41 tourneys, Pima 62-55 and Fort Thomas 55-62 during 39 tourneys, Morenci 56-57 during 38 tourneys, and San Carlos is in its initial tourney.
Nine others teams have also participated; Clifton (19-72) in 31 tourneys; both Cliff (9-6) and Miami (3-12) 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.