Top two East Region teams clash in Morenci Friday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Jordan Leonard attempts a layup against The Gregory School on Jan. 18. Leonard drew a foul and made 8-9 free throws on the night as the Wildcats won 63-55.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Patrick Hepper-coached Morenci Wildcats (12-1 seeding, 11.8584 rating, 9-0 East Region for No. 1) added four wins to their overall record, topping the No. 31 Cowboys (3-10, minus 4.5946, 1-7 region for No. 7) 64-15 in Willcox Jan. 11, the No. 12 Pima Roughriders (8-6, 5.0672, 6-3 region for No. 3) 52-48 in Morenci Jan. 15, the Tucson Gregory School Hawks 63-55 Jan. 18, and the No. 27 Bisbee Pumas (5-10, minus 3.6277, 2-8 region for No. 6) 65-36.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci senior Ryan Hayes attempts a shot against The Gregory School.

Morenci, ranked second of 48 2A teams, welcomes the No. 5 Thatcher Eagles (11-4, 8.9313, 8-1 region for No. 2) on Friday, Jan. 25 in region play, and entertains the New Mexico Bayard Cobre Indians on Saturday, Jan. 26.

The No. 12 Bobcats (6-7, minus 0.7473, 4-6 region for No. 4) and the No. 23 Tombstone Yellow Jackets (5-8, minus 2.5309, 2-7 region for No. 5) loom ahead in Benson on Jan. 31 and in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium on Feb. 1, respectively.

Through eight region contests, the Wildcats have a combined 70 (88-125) free throw percentage compared to 63 (49-77) for opponents.

Individually, percentages are 84 (26-31) for senior Jordan Leonard, 75 (3-4) for Jordan Reyes, 72 (23-32) for senior John Olmsted, 70 (7-10) for sophomore Maddux Martinez, 69 (11-16) for freshman Christian Mutengelo, 67 (4-6) for senior Matthew Silvester, 61 (11-18) for senior Ryan Hayes and 38 (3-8) for sophomore Steven Shawn-Michael Chavez Jr.

Wildcats – 63, Hawks – 55

The fifth lead change, following a 5-5 tie with 2:45 elapsed, scored on a Chavez 3-pointer, gave the Wildcats a 13-11 advantage and the lead for good with 2:39 left in the opening period.

Morenci led by six, 18-12 following the first period and 36-30 at halftime, and by five, 47-42 heading into the fourth period. The top ranked 1A Hawks were unable to narrow the margin during the entire fourth period and the Wildcats led by as much as 11, 61-50 with 46 seconds remaining.

The home boys totaled 22 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 12-15 free throws compared to 20 field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 10-15 free throws by the Hawks.

Seven Wildcats shared the court, but only five contributed points. Olmsted netted 18 points on seven field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-4 free throws, Chavez 14 five field goals (four 3-pointers), Leonard 13 two field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 8-9 free throws, and Martinez 10 on five field goals. Hayes added eight points.

Six of eight Hawks receiving playing time scored. Josiah Prior netted 14 points on six field goals (two 3-pointers) and Anderson Mort 12 on three field goals plus 6-8 free throws. Brightstar Benson, Demari Harris and Tomari Harris added nine points apiece, and Oscar Ramirez two.

 Wildcats – 52, Roughriders – 48

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior John Olmsted drives to the basket against Pima big man Dawson Pruszynski during a region home game Jan. 16. Olmsted totaled 10 points while Pruszynski had 17.

Morenci led 8-0 before the visitors scored their first basket, an Alec Judd 3-pointer with 4:18 elapsed in the game. The Wildcats again went up by eight 21 seconds later, 11-3, before Pima went on a 6-0 run to trail 11-9 at the start of the second quarter.

Pima tied it thrice, 11-11 with 38 seconds elapsed in the second period, 17-17 with 3:32 elapsed, and 20-20 with 4:59 elapsed, before a Hayes basket gave Morenci the lead for good.

The Wildcats led 25-20 at halftime and 41-31 heading onto the fourth quarter. Morenci’s largest lead was 13, 46-33 with 6:49 left to play.

Pima scored 10 unanswered points before Morenci added two more, and the Roughriders came within two twice, 48-46 on a Hayden Ashby 3-pointer with 3:01 left and on a pair of Tim Salyer free throws with 2:02 left.

A Martinez field goal with 2:37 left and two Leonard free throws with 1:56 left twice raised the margin to four, 50-46 and 52-48, respectively, for Morenci.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci sophomore Maddux Martinez prevents Pima senior Hayden Ashby from taking an open shot or making an easy pass.

“Playing hard hasn’t been a problem in the last four years,” Pima head coach Cliff Thompson said. “We just got to make more of our shots. We had a chance to tie (in the closing three minutes) and didn’t.”

Morenci connected on 17 field goals (ten 3-pointers) plus 8-11 free throws versus 15 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 14-15 free throws by Pima.

Leonard tallied 14 points on three 3-pointers plus 5-5 free throws, Chavez 12 on four 3-pointers, and Olmsted 10 on four field goals (two 3-pointers). Hayes added nine points, Martinez five, and Silvester two.

Dawson Pruszynski had 17 points on five field goals plus 7-7 free throws. Judd added seven points, Levi Thygerson six, Ashby, Salyer, and Jake Whitaker five apiece, and Drew Thompson three.

Pima will next visit the Safford Bulldogs on Thursday, Jan. 24, and then host the Willcox Cowboys on Friday, Jan. 25 before finishing off its regular season by hosting the Thatcher Eagles on Thursday, Jan. 31.

Wildcats – 62, Cowboys – 15

The Wildcats scored in double figures through the first three quarters as the Cowboys did so in only one. As a result, Morenci led 14-1 after the first quarter, 40-11 at halftime, and 55-13 heading into the fourth quarter.

Morenci totaled 18 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 20-27 free throws versus five field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 4-11 free throws by Willcox.

Olmsted netted 16 points on three field goals plus 10-11 free throws and Leonard 15 on five field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 2-4 free throws. Metengola added eight points, Hayes six, Chavez and sophomore Nico Hammond five apiece, Martinez four, sophomore Jeremiah Rojas two, and Silvester one.

For Willcox, J.J. Lunt had seven points, Rico Lunt five, Heber Miller two, and Cael DeBaun one.

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