Desert Edge’s 11-year coach Heidi Behnke refers to this time of the year as madness.
Behnke believes crazy things tend to unfold in the playoffs, such as an 11-point lead with less than two minutes vanishing. Behnke’s warning almost proved prophetic when Sahuaro kept cuting into Desert Edge’s late lead in Tuesday night’s first round 5A Conference state game.
To further prove Behnke’s madness theory, Sahuaro’s Carina Mendoza swished a half court three near the end of the game, but it was not enough to continue Sahuaro’s season. Desert Edge held off Sahauro’s late surge to advance to Friday’s 5A Conference state quarterfinals with a 51-46 home win.
“I felt the reaction time in some areas was slow (tonight),” Behnke said. “If that continues, it will be a long night for us on Friday.”
Frustrated opponents of No. 3 seed Sierra Linda, No. 6 seed Desert Edge’s next matchup, tend to have sleepless nights after playing Sierra Linda.
Behnke pinned the 11-day lay off as the likely culprit of Desert Edge’s mental lapses against Sahuaro. The veteran coach didn’t mince words when she called timeouts to pinpoint what exactly her players were doing wrong.
But the self-described perfectionist did find some positives. Desert Edge’s aggressiveness on offense allowed it take 20 more free throws than Sahuaro, which helped Desert Edge keep the lead from the second quarter on.
Behnke’s squad shot 84 percent (22 of 26) from the free throw line, with Sarahi Montano making 10 of her 13 attempts.
The shooting of leading scorer Mackenzie Kinsel (16 points) in the second quarter also helped Desert Edge take a lead it never gave up in the remainder of the game. Sahuaro coach Steve Botkin said after the game that he regretted not switching to a man-to-man sooner in the second quarter.
This was the first time that Desert Edge hosted a playoff game in five years and the first time in the program’s history that it won a region title. But the Behnke wasn’t too happy that her pressure defense gave up more than 40 points Tuesday.
“I am hard to please,” Behnke said.
Credit Botkin’s girls for doing all they could to catch up to Desert Edge (21-7).
Sahuaro finished the year 18-10 with a roster of full of new faces when this season started.
“I’m super proud of my girls,” Botkin said. “They fought back.”