HOLIDAY HOOPS: Cienega, Ironwood Ridge & Pusch Ridge win championships
December 31, 2015 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365
The 2015 version of The Flowing Wells Holiday Shootout and the Northwest Desert Classic came to an end Wednesday night with the Cienega girls defeating Sahuaro 44-39 at Flowing Wells, the Ironwood Ridge girls winning the NW Desert Classic 55-39 over Tucson and the Pusch Ridge boys defeating Globe 83-45.
Sahuaro defeated Pueblo 60-54 in the semifinal round earlier in the day and Cienega took care of Dobson 40-33 to set up the final of the Flowing Wells Shootout.
Cienega (9-1) is coming off of a 30-1 season and a trip to the quarterfinal round where Ironwood Ridge knocked them off 47-43 but, even with the loss of Treyanna Clay and Destiny Richardson along with head coach Matt Ruiz, expectations have not lessened for this year.
"We still have that expectation, the expectation of winning," first-year coach Deia Mack said. "We already have that one loss and we have a very young team with only two seniors but we are coming along."
One of the standouts on her team is her daughter, junior guard NaKeva Mack. NaKeva was named to the All-Tournament team along with teammate Nalin Martinez. The Bobcats also feature sophomore forward Lauren Green and junior guard Senida Sotelo. Green was a Freshman of the Year selection last year.
Sahuaro (11-3) has a strong cast including senior Reazsha Benjamin, junior Elena Arriaga and senior standout Sydney Harden. Harden broke her career 1,000 rebound mark at the tournament. Her power around the glass is one reason why she is expected to become the leading scorer in Sahuaro history.
The championship was expected to be a good one and it came through although it didn't look that way early on after Cienega came out with a 7-0 lead. Sahuaro stormed back and took a 9-7 lead and eventually increased the lead to 18-12 with 3:41 left in the second quarter.
It was the Bobcat's turn to make a run and they closed the gap to 23-22 at the half. Still, Sahuaro came out of the locker room and opened up a 31-25 lead only to have Cienega go on a 9-0 run to take a 34-31 lead heading into the fourth.
Green hit her second 3-pointer of the game and Cienega took a 37-31 lead in the opening moments of the fourth but Harden and Benjamin sparked a Cougar run and the gap was cut to 39-37 with 1:57 left in the game.
Cienega led 41-39 with 30.5 seconds left but a bucket by Sotelo and a couple of free throws from Sabrina Hartzell closed out the game for the 44-39 win.
Harden and Benjamin both finished with 11 points for Sahuaro and Green scored 11 for Cienega.
Flowing Wells All-Tournament Team
Leila El-Ali, Canyon del Oro
Hannah Bjorgum, Desert Christian
Kelsey Siemons, Catalina Foothills
Kendyl Payne, Queen Creek
Czarina Lorta, Nogales
Shauna Bribiescas. Dobson
Megan Lopez, Dobson
Alyssa Perez, Pueblo
Ilyssa Galindo, Pueblo
Araceli Loya, Pueblo
Nalin Martinez, Cienega
NaKeva Mack, Cienega
Carina Mendoza, Sahuaro
Sydney Harden, Sahuaro
Reazsha Benjamin, Sahuaro
The girl's championship of the Northwest Desert Classic was a rematch of last year's version where Ironwood Ridge came back from an early deficit to pull out a 47-44 win in the final seconds. Lexy Ram was named the MVP of the tournament and it was an honor she would repeat again this year.
Unlike last year, the Nighthawks (12-2) took control early and pulled away with a 55-39 win. Ram scored 21 points which gave her 960 for her career. She passed former Ironwood Ridge standout Lindsey Miller's previous scoring mark (955 points, 2002-06) in the third quarter.
Sophomore Natalie Bartle came up big early for the Nighthawks and she finished with 17 points with 12 coming in the first half.
Alexis Cortez struggled to find the bucket for Tucson (13-2) in the early stages of the game but she ultimately finished with 20 points. The East Carolina commit is approaching 2,500 career points which would put her in the top five in the history of Arizona.
Both Tucson and Ironwood Ridge fell victim to eventual state champion Maricopa in the state playoffs last year but another state-run is still on the horizon.
"I give all credit to my teammates," Ram said after receiving her MVP award. "They supported me and pushed me to be better. This is for them."
Northwest Desert Classic All-Tournament Team
Lexy Ram, MVP
Lauren Leven, Notre Dame
Bree Olson, Pusch Ridge
Natalie Bartle, Ironwood Ridge
Alexis Cortez, Tucson
JJ Nakai, Coconino
Marissa Copley, Coconino
Hunter Begaye, St. Michael's
Marissa Miller, Tucson
Hannah Semon, Ironwood Ridge
Globe flew out to an 8-0 lead on Pusch Ridge on the boy's side but the Lions proved too deep and had little difficulty pulling out the 83-45 win.
Junior Aaron Noller was difficult for Globe to cover, especially as the clock was winding down. He scored five points to close out the first quarter including a 3-pointer at the buzzer and 14 points with 2:43 left in the third including another 3-pointer at the buzzer. Noller finished with 22 points.
Southern Arizona Football Player of the Year Ben Walker 12 for the Lions and Kyle Eggers scored 13.
Pusch Ridge (10-4), like a lot of small schools, got a boost once the football players were added to their roster and this is what tournament MVP Eggers credits for his team's success.
"We have high expectations but we started out rough," Eggers explained. "Things started to get exciting once the football guys came on but this trophy is nice to have but I'd much rather have the bigger trophy at the end of the year."
Globe (9-7) had a good run at the invitational thanks in part to freshman guard Robert Burries who is averaging over 21 points a game. He finished with 14 points.
David Thomas is in his first-year coaching at Pusch Ridge but he has had a great run in the local club circuit so he is well-versed on what it takes to succeed but the most successful still need a mentor and Thomas has one in Jim Reynolds.
Reynolds is a Hall of Fame coach from Cincinnati where he retired from coaching Madeira High School after 25 tears. He had 22 straight winning seasons, he won 11 Cincinnati Hills League titles, 10 sectional titles and six district titles. He was named the Coach of the Decade for the 1990s.
His son, Ryan Reynolds, is the Director of basketball Operations at the University of Arizona and has been on the Arizona staff since 2010.
"He is a huge reason why we are winning games," Thomas said. "To have someone like him on my staff is incredible."
Finally, former Arizona and San Antonio Spur standout Sean Elliott's nephew plays for Pusch Ridge. The 6-foot-5-inch freshman scored four points to close out the game.
Northwest Desert Classic All-Tournament Team
Robert Burries, Globe
Braden Dalton, Globe
Kyle Eggers, Pusch Ridge
Cameron Foss, Pusch Ridge
Ben Walker, Pusch Ridge
Ryan Grabosch, Desert Christian
KJ Nyberg, Benson
Andrew Reyna, St. Augustine
Mark Lugo, St. Augustine
Brayden Palmer, Benson