Tigers host Redskins for 59th EA Holiday Tourney opener Tuesday

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Grant Ashby encounters resistance from Willcox defenders Joendy Ruiz (1) and Rico Lunt (15) as attempts a shot during last year’s tournament. Pima defeated Willcox 72-26 in the first round and Morenci 64-28 in the semifinals to reach the championship game.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

THATCHER – Second seed Saint David hosts seventh seed Saint Johns in the opening game of the 59th annual Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney on Tuesday, Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. Top seed Pima hosts eighth seed Duncan at 2:30 p.m. in the second game of the first session.

The second session has fifth seed Morenci facing fourth seed Safford for Game 3 at 6:30 p.m. and sixth seed Fort Thomas takes on third seed Thatcher in Game 4 at 8 p.m. The games are all being held in Guitteau Gymnasium on the Eastern Arizona College campus.

The second round is Wednesday, Dec. 28. In consolation round pairings, the Saint David – Saint Johns loser meets the Thatcher – Fort Thomas loser at 1 p.m. and the Pima – Duncan loser meets the Safford – Morenci loser at 2:30 p.m. The semifinal round has the Pima – Duncan winner versus the Safford – Morenci winner at 6:30 p.m. and the Saint David – Saint Johns winner versus the Thatcher – Fort Thomas winner at 8 p.m.

The final round is Thursday, Dec. 29. The consolation round losers are paired for seventh place at 1 p.m. and winners for fifth place at 6:30 p.m. The semifinal losers meet for third place at 2:30 p.m. and the winners are in the championship game at 8 p.m.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher made 9-12 fourth-quarter free throws to overcome a 32-35 three-quarters deficit to Pima in the 2021 championship game. Hudson Griffin (24) made 3-4 for the game, Bradley Curtis (1) 4-4 in the fourth quarter, and Brandon Napier (11) 1-2 in the fourth quarter and 2-4 for the game. The trio received all-tourney honors with Griffin named most valuable player.

Game 1 (1 p.m.): No. 7 Saint Johns vs. No. 2 Saint David

The Casey Heap-coached 2A North Region Saint Johns Redskins (4-6 overall, 3-2 seeding, 0-0 region) are averaging a 54-53 (535-531) score per game or a 1-point margin.

Saint Johns has wins of 67-51 over Saint Michael (Nov. 29), 64-18 over Many Farms (Nov. 30), 65-38 over Saint Michael (Dec. 9), and 60-21 over Tuba City Greyhills (Dec. 17). The losses are 48-58 to Benson (Dec. 8), 55-69 to Fort Thomas (Dec. 9), 57-65 to Rock Point (Dec. 9), 61-63 to San Carlos (Dec. 10), 61-72 to Joseph City (Dec. 13), and 58-76 to Show Low (Dec. 15).

The Nathan Richardson-coached 1A Tucson Southeast Region Saint David Tigers (13-0, 7-0, 0-0) are averaging a 68-40 (884-524) score per game or a 28-point margin.

Saint David has wins of 59-57 over Morenci (Nov. 28), 67-25 over Tombstone (Nov. 30), 66-43 over Tucson’s The Gregory School (Dec. 1), 72-42 over San Manuel (Dec. 6), 74-50 over Salome (Dec. 9), 76-30 over Kearny Ray (Dec. 12), 76-61 over Fort Thomas (Dec. 13), 84-25 over Tucson San Miguel Catholic (Dec. 15), 83-24 over Tombstone (Dec. 15), 82-45 over Morenci (Dec. 16), 1-0 over Tucson Empire (Dec. 16), 73-66 over Sahuarita (Dec. 17), and 71-56 over Benson (Dec. 17).

Saint Johns is its initial Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney while Saint David is in its eighth.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Brandon Napier (11), Bradley Curtis (1), and Hudson Griffin (24) hold the first-place trophy following the team award presentation.

Game 2 (2:30 p.m.): No. 8 Duncan vs. No. 1 Pima

The Eldon Merrell -coached 1A Tucson Southeast Region Duncan Wildkats (4-7, 3-4, 0-0) are averaging a 47-50 (519-546) score per game or a 3-point deficit.

Duncan has wins of 72-50 over Tombstone (Nov. 18), 45-15 over Superior (Nov. 22), 68-13 over Tucson Arizona School for the Deaf and the Blind (Dec. 1), and 55-54 over San Manuel (Dec. 13). The losses are 56-58 to San Manuel (Nov. 21), 33-66 to Joseph City 63-49 (Nov. 21), 53-57 to Winkelman Hayden (Nov. 22), 21-62 to Sells Baboquivari (Nov. 30), 40-64 to Tucson Desert Christian (Dec. 9), 37-54 to Fort Thomas (Dec. 15), and 39-55 to Willcox (Dec. 19).

The Cliff Thompson-coached 2A East Region Pima Roughriders (6-2, 4-0, 2-0) are averaging a 58-45 (462-361) score per game or a 13-point margin.

Pima has topped Phoenix Arizona Lutheran 43-40 (Dec. 2), Glendale Trivium Prep 59-33 (Dec. 9), Tombstone 78-22 (Dec. 13), Bisbee 65-51 (Dec. 16), California San Diego Patrick Henry 58-48 (Dec. 20), and Maricopa 67-47 (Dec. 22). The losses are 36-54 to Colorado Rock Canyon (Dec. 19) and 56-66 to Gilbert Campo Verde (Dec. 21).

Duncan and Pima have both participated in all the previous 58 tourneys.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Christian Smith (32) draws the attention of Duncan defenders Logan Basteen (52) and Austin Bigler (50) while attempting a shot. The Safford Class of 2022 member scored a team-high 11 points. Safford outscored Duncan 36-32 to place fifth. The Bulldogs used a 17-13 halftime edge to their advantage as both teams added 19 second-half points.

Game 3 (6:30 p.m.): No. 5 Morenci vs. No. 4 Safford

The Ruben Leonard-coached 2A East Region Morenci Wildcats (8-5, 4-2, 3-0) are averaging a 55-47 (717-607) score per game or an 8-point margin.

Morenci defeated Benson 92-81 (Dec. 1), Elfrida Valley Union 59-21 (Dec. 5), Willcox 46-36 (Dec. 8), Tucson Santa Rita 64-11 (Dec. 13), Tucson San Miguel Catholic 76-25 (Dec. 15), Tombstone 69-39 (Dec. 15), Tucson Empire 1-0 (Dec. 17), and Tombstone 58-47 (Dec. 17). The losses are 55-74 to San Carlos (Nov. 21), 57-59 to Saint David (Nov. 28), 45-82 to Saint David (Dec. 16), 45-70 to Sahuarita (Dec. 16), and 50-62 to Sahuarita (Dec. 17).

The Danny Smith-coached 3A South Region Safford Bulldogs (5-6, 2-4, 0-0) are averaging a 54-55 (559-603) score per game or a 1-point deficit.

Safford has wins of 56-45 over Eagar Round Valley (Nov. 28), 66-51 over Snowflake (Dec. 6), 61-50 over San Carlos (Dec. 8), 61-53 over Heber Mogollon (Dec. 9), and 67-65 over Benson (Dec. 10). The losses are 60-64 to Douglas (Nov. 22), 51-66 to Sahuarita (Dec. 2), 51-66 to Holbrook (Dec. 8), 35-65 to Holbrook (Dec. 10), 58-75 to Tucson Amphitheater (Dec. 13) and 33-68 to Tucson Pueblo (Dec. 17).

Safford has attended 47 tourneys while Morenci has been in 10 fewer.

Game 4 (8 p.m.): No. 6 Fort Thomas vs. No. 3 Thatcher

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Jayshawn Rambler (25) of Fort Thomas checks out the defense as he decides his next move. He was selected to the all-tourney team.

The Matthew Dona-coached 1A Copper Region Fort Thomas Apaches (7-4, 5-2, 0-1) are averaging a 62-58 (680-634) score per game or a 4-point margin.

Fort Thomas has wins of 53-39 over Chandler Lincoln Prep (Nov. 22), 89-61 over San Manuel (Nov. 29), 71-28 over Phoenix Valley Lutheran (Dec. 1), 87-77 over Scottsdale Cicero Prep (Dec. 6), 69-55 over Saint Johns (Dec. 8), 69-41 over Whiteriver Alchesay (Dec. 8), and 54-37 over Duncan (Dec. 15). The losses are 55-63 to Benson (Dec. 9), 70-75 to Round Valley (Dec. 9), 61-76 to Saint David (Dec. 13), and 78-82 to Joseph City (Dec. 16).

The Kyle Hull-coached 3A South Region Thatcher Eagles (4-5, 1-2, 0-0) are averaging a 52.4-51.7 (472-465) score per game or a 0.7-point margin.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Thatcher Class of 2022 member T.J. Reed tries to dribble past a Pima defender.

Thatcher has wins of 59-55 over Tucson Sabino (Dec. 15), 51-44 over Globe (Dec. 19), 62-55 over Florence Poston Butte (Dec. 20), and 69-39 over Scottsdale Coronado (Dec. 21). The losses are 41-72 to Gilbert San Tan Charter (Nov. 29), 48-49 to Douglas (Dec. 1), 44-49 to Queen Creek San Tan Foothills (Dec. 19), 64-65 to Florence (Dec. 20), and 34-37 to Florence (Dec. 21).

Thatcher and Fort Thomas have both participated in all the previous 58 tourneys.

2021 (58th) Tourney Results

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Christian Mutengela Mpoyo (5) releases a shot attempt after getting past Saint David guard Kydin Richardson (15). Mpoyo had a team-high 12 points. He and Richardson both landed on the all-tourney team.

Top-seeded Thatcher defeated second-seed Pima 45-38 for the 58th Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney title. It was Thatcher’s 21st title earned and first three-peat. The pairing of the two programs as tourney finalists was the tenth, with each winning five times.

The Eagles bested downed eighth-seed Fort Thomas 95-33 in the first round and fourth-seed Saint David 54-36 in the semifinals. The Roughriders reached the championship game with wins of 72-26 over seventh-seed Willcox in the first round and 64-28 over third-seed Morenci in the semifinals.

Saint David outscored Morenci 53-47 for third place, sixth seed Safford slipped past fifth seed Duncan 36-32 for fifth place, and Willcox bested Fort Thomas 61-46 for seventh place.

The other first-round winners were Saint David (48-43 in overtime over Duncan) and Morenci (54-43 over Safford).

Advancing in the consolation round were Safford and Duncan with wins of 54-48 over Willcox and 58-41 over Fort Thomas, respectively.

58th All-Tourney Team

The all-tourney team had Thatcher senior Hudson Griffin and juniors Bradley Curtis and Brandon Napier; Pima juniors Grant Ashby, Seth Russell, and Leland Thompson; Saint David senior Jacob Goodman and junior Kydin Richardson, and Morenci senior Christian Mpoyo and sophomore Tristen Sanchez.

Seniors Christian Smith of Safford and Conlan Jensen of Duncan, along with juniors Joendy Ruiz of Willcox and Jayshawn Rambler of Fort Thomas filled out the team.

Thatcher senior Griffin was named the most valuable player.

Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney Team Records

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Leland Thompson scored a team-high 11 points during the tourney finale, connecting on 2-3 free throws. Pima totaled 54-9 for the game with none awarded in the fourth quarter. Thompson was selected all-tourney.

It was the fifth straight year with the same eight teams. Pima is 12-3; Thatcher 11-4; Safford 10-5; Fort Thomas 9-6, Morenci 7-8, Duncan 5-10, Saint David 4-11, and Willcox 2-13 in the same 5-year span.

Beginning as a six-team, two-day, Friday-Saturday meet with two games on the first day and five on the second day, the ensuing 57 tourneys included four games played in three days with eight teams playing once per day, unless a last-minute cancelation occurred, and one team ended with three wins, three 2-1, three 1-2, and one 0-3. Sierra Vista Buena topped Duncan 87-63 for the title, Clifton edged Fort Thomas 68-66 for third place, and Thatcher slipped past Pima 50-46 in overtime for fifth place.

Traditionally held after Christmas since its inception, the previous recent five tourneys (2016-21) were each started and completed before Christmas.

Academia Juarez opened the new millennium as the first non-Arizona entrant to be the top seed. The Lobos fell 60-71 to sixth-seed Willcox in the title game.

The top two seeds have met in the finale of eight of the previous 21 (37th-58th) tourneys held. The No. 1 seed has prevailed in 13 (13-4) meets in the same span. The other champions have been the second seed (2-7), the third seed (4-3), the fourth seed (1-2), and the sixth seed (1-2). The other title game qualifier was a fifth seed (0-1).

Six of the current eight participants have accounted for 50 tourney champions. Thatcher has qualified for 35 finals (21-14) with four in a row from 2010-13 (48th-51st), a three-peat 2018-21 (56th-58th), three repeats from 1977-78 (15th-16th), 1989-90 (27th-28th), and 2001-02 (39th-40th), as well as single titles in 1980 (18th), 1983 (21st), 1986 (24th), 1995 (33rd), 1997 (35th), 1999 (37th), 2006 (44th), and 2008 (46th); Safford 20 (9-11) with two in a row twice, 1984-85 (9th-10th) and 2003-04 (41st-42nd) as well as in 1975 (13th), 1987 (25th), 1991 (29th), 2007 (45th), and 2017 (55th); Fort Thomas 13 (9-4) with three in a row from 1992-94 (31st -33rd) and a repeat in 1966-67 (4th-5th), 1979 (17th), 1988 (26th), 1996 (34th), and 1998 (36th); Pima 14 (7-8) with a meet record five straight wins from 1970-74 (8th-12th) and a repeat in 2015-16 (53rd-54th); Morenci 10 (3-7), winning in 1970 (7th), 1981 (19th), and 2014 (52nd); and Duncan has finished second thrice (0-3).

Seven other teams have been champions, Holbrook twice (2-3) in 2005 (43rd) and 2009 (47th); Kearny Ray twice (2-1) in 1964-65 (2nd-3rd); Willcox once (1-1) in 2000 (38th); Clifton once (1-1) in 1982 (20th); Round Valley once (1-1) in 1968 (6th); Tombstone once (1-0) in 1976 (14th); and Buena once (1-0) in the inaugural tourney of 1963.

The other finalists were Tanque Verde in 2012 (50th), Hayden in 1969 (7th), and Superior in 1965 (2nd).

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Tristen Sanchez begins his ascent for a jump shot against Saint David defenders Jacob Goodman (2) and Kydin Richardson (11). Sanchez had 11 points in the third-place game won 53-47 by Saint David. The trio was selected for the all-tourney team.

Sixteen teams have participated in the 21st-century tourneys. In those 21 (38th-58th) meets, Thatcher is 50-12 (.806) with only two games played in 2001, Safford 45-18 (.714), Pima 33-30 (.524), Duncan and Willcox both 24-39 (.381), and Fort Thomas 20-43 (.317). Morenci is 19-22 (.463) in 13 tourneys (45th-58th), Clifton 5-16 (.238) in seven (38th-44th), Holbrook 14-4 (.778) in six (42nd-47th), Saint David 6-15 (.286) in seven (41st, 53rd-58th), Tucson Tanque Verde 4-5 (.444) in three (50th-52nd), and five one-time entrants, Mexico Academia Juarez (38th), Globe (48th), Payson (40th), and Benson (48th) each 2-1 (.667), and Bowie 0-3 (41st).

Four teams have been in all 58 meets. Thatcher is 116-53 (.686) overall (two games in 1963, 1967, 1973, 1979), Pima 89-83 (.517), Fort Thomas 79-94 (.457), and Duncan 73-80 (.477) playing in only two games in 1998. Safford is 94-45 (.676) in 47 meets (did not enter the first 11), Morenci 58-46 (.558) in 37 (4th-7th, 18th-37th, 45th-58th), and Saint David 2-1 (.333) in one (58th).

A total of 28 different schools have been represented on the Gila Monster campus. Clifton ended 41-89 in 44 (1st-44th), Willcox 61-72 in 41 (14th-19th, 23rd-58th), Eagar Round Valley 11-7 in six (6th, 10th, 15th-16th, 20th-21st), Bowie 1-14 in five (2nd-3rd, 9th-10th, 41st), Sahuarita 4-8 in four (8th-11th), Kearny Ray 8-1 in three (2nd-4th), Winkelman Hayden 6-3 in three (5th-7th), New Mexico Lordsburg 3-6 in three (7th-9th), Elfrida Valley Union 2-7 in three (3rd, 12th-13th), Show Low 2-7 in three (12th-13th, 22nd), Superior 4-2 in two (2nd, 4th), Buena 3-0 in one (1st), Tombstone 3-0 in one (14th), San Simon 2-1 in one (8th), and Apache Junction 0-2 in one (two in 11th).

Twelve Fort Thomas 3-pointers made during the 57th tourney opener against Willcox (Dec. 16, 2919) tied for the second most made by a team. Safford sank a dozen against Willcox during a 45th (2007) tourney semifinal 81-65 win and totaled the second most 3-pointers made in three games (28). The Bulldogs left with the meet title.

Holbrook netted a dozen against Duncan during the 46th (2008) tourney 75-67 game two win and wound up with a three-game record of 29 as the meet runner-up.

Pima has made the most 3-pointers in a game, 14 during a 42nd (2004) tourney semifinal 61-70 loss to Safford.

Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney Individual Records

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Joendy Ruiz (1) of Willcox tries to fend off a Fort Thomas defender during the seventh-place game. He was selected to the all-tourney team.

Thatcher Class of 2023 member Bradley Curtis tied two others with his Round One 32-point effort against Fort Thomas in the 58th meet. He made 15 field goals plus 2-2 free throws. Previously, Scott Miller of Willcox totaled that amount, also in a Round One game against Duncan in 1981 (18th) and Jimmy Nichols of Thatcher reached that during the 1999 (37th) championship game. Miller connected on 11 field goals plus 10-11 free throws while Nichols made 15 field goals plus 2-5 free throws.

There have been 13 former participants scoring 30 points, nine with 31, three with 32, six with 33, four with 34, three with 35, eight with 36, one with 37, one with 38, two with 42, one with 43, and one with 47.

Frank Campos of Superior has scored the single game most points, 47 during a 70-72 loss to Kearny Ray in the game 3 first round of the fourth meet, and three others have scored 42 or more points.

Duncan’s Daniel Corona holds the three-game scoring record with 104 points notched during the 52nd (2014) tourney. He netted 34 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 28-30 free throws, with 36 points versus Safford (67-81 game 3 loss), 31 versus Willcox (54-53 consolation round win), and 37 versus Pima (53-62 5th place loss).

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Area official Eric Blair motions ball possession as the teams return from a time-out.

Corona’s 36 points on 12 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 10-11 free throws tied six others, the first being Clifton’s Rory Laney in a 61-78 semifinal loss to Safford during the 12th (1975) tourney. His 31 points tied eight others, the first being Pima’s Mark McBride during the 60-49 game 4 first-round win over Morenci in the fourth (1966) meet.

Leonard’s seven 3-pointers during the 57-67 first-round loss to Fort Thomas tied three other efforts, Morenci’s Jeremy Vanegas during the 26th tourney (1988) seventh place 54-53 win over Duncan, Clifton’s Marc Cueto during the 33rd (1995) third place 67-76 loss to Fort Thomas, and Holbrook’s Kory Koerperich during the 46th (2008) game 2 first round 75-67 win over Duncan.

Thatcher’s Carson Goodman holds the single game most 3-pointers scored, eight during a game two first-round 58-37 win over Fort Thomas in the 52nd meet (2014).