BOYS HOOPS: Sahuaro picks up important win at Palo Verde

December 17, 2018 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Sahuaro senior Kevin Poe attempts to drive on Zionn Sandoval. (Andy Morales/

Sahuaro picked up an impressive win on the road Monday night to move to 6-6 overall and 5-4 in power-ranking games. The 54-44 win at Palo Verde (9-2, 7-1) should come in handy when the first AIA rankings are released Tuesday. Under the current playoff rules for the 4A Conference, teams ranked 9-24 will take part in a play-in tournament scheduled for Feb. 8 so the top-24 is what most teams are aiming for.

Palo Verde led 11-9 after one and the close score became the perfect scenario for a minor upset in the making. The Titans were unable to shake free and the Cougars took control in the second quarter to go into the locker room up 27-19.

Zionn Sandoval led all scorers with 18 points and fellow senior Jeffrey Thomas added 10 but the Titans couldn’t overcome the deficit despite cutting the lead down to 34-37 with 5:35 left in the game. The difference to that point was the defensive play of 6-foot-6 senior Shea Heslep.

The forward only scored two points for Sahuaro but he recorded five blocks in the lane by that point and he added three more down the stretch before fouling out with 2:11 left in the game. Each one of Heslep’s eight blocks resulted in points at the other end with the dagger coming on a 3 from junior guard Zach Bates to make it 44-34 with 4:01 left.

Bates finished with eight points but five of those came in the final minutes of the game and Kevin Poe scored eight of his 12 in the final quarter to help pace the Cougars. Sahuaro held on for the 54-44 with sophomore Kevin Potter scoring 14 and senior Eric Blackwell adding 12.

Sahuaro will take ten days off from here before taking part in the Sabino Holiday Classic slated to begin on Dec. 27.  The Cougars dropped a 71-64 4A Kino game to Salpointe (11-0, 6-0) last Thursday and region play will pick up again on Jan. 8, 2019.

Palo Verde will play at Pueblo (2-11, 1-7) this Thursday to open up 4A Gila Region play before taking a week off to also prepare for the Sabino tournament.

The region champions in the 4A Conference will get an automatic playoff berth to at least the play-in tournament. Teams ranked 1-8 will go directly to the 4A state playoffs scheduled for Feb. 12 but, if the region champions fall in the play-in bracket, they will get a home game. The eight winners from the play-in bracket will be matched up against the top eight teams to fill the 16-team playoff bracket.

For specific details on the playoff system for all conferences please visit HERE.