By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – The Patrick Hepper-coached Morenci basketball boys visit Bisbee Tuesday, Jan. 9 and Benson Friday, Jan. 12, both in region play.
This week’s other 2A East Region contests include Pima at Benson and Thatcher at Willcox Tuesday, Tombstone at Bisbee Wednesday, Thatcher at Benson Thursday, and Bisbee at Pima and Tombstone at Willcox Friday.
Morenci (8-8 overall, 5-4 seeding, 0.1451 rating, 3-2 region for No. 3) is ranked No. 26 of 50 2A teams while Bisbee (11-5, 4-4, 0.6387, 2-4 for No. 5) is No. 21 as of Jan. 6.
The rest of the region teams are Pima (13-2, 8-0, 15.6294, 5-0 for No. 1) at No. 1, Thatcher (8-7, 5-2, 7.2387, 3-1 for No. 2) at No. 8, Benson (4-10, 3-4, minus 3.6128, 2-2 for No. 4) at No. 35, Tombstone (9-7, 3-5, minus 2.7496, 1-3 for No. 6) at No. 34, and Willcox (4-13, 2-7, minus 6.0899, 0-4 for No. 7) at No. 39.
Morenci started the season with three wins over Cochise County teams, 52-25 over Saint David Nov. 28, 56-32 over Benson in region play Dec. 1, and 49-39 over Willcox in region play Dec. 5; went 1-3 at the Round Valley Roundball Shootout, losing 21-75 to Whiteriver Alchesay and downing Saint Johns 45-38 Dec. 7 plus falling 57-60 to Holbrook and 60-70 to Sanders Valley Dec. 8; fell 58-70 to Pima in region play Dec. 12; fell 51-77 to Safford Dec. 13; fell 38-62 to New Mexico Silver Dec. 16; went 2-1 at the 55th Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney, falling 57-67 to Fort Thomas Dec. 18, and defeating Willcox 67-35 Dec. 19 and Duncan 50-44 for 5th place Dec. 20.
The Wildcats topped New Mexico Lordsburg, 59-33, in Morenci on Jan. 2, fell 54-57 to Thatcher on the road Jan. 5, and ran past Bisbee, 64-48, in Morenci on Jan. 6.
Morenci – 64, Bisbee – 48
A late fourth period 16-0 run vaulted the Wildcats past the visiting Pumas after the visitors got within three points, 45-48, midway through the final period.
Sophomore John Olmsted made three consecutive inside field goals, followed by 2-2 free throws by senior Jordan Leonard, senior David Corona, and freshman Diego Mendoza, a Corona field goal and 2-2 additional free throws by him accounted for the run.
Additionally, defensive efforts in the same span forced hurried or poor shot selections at the other end plus positioning for rebounds by the Wildcats aided in defeating the Pumas.
Morenci led 30-13 at halftime, but made poor shot selections and had telegraphed passes picked off for uncontested lay-ups during the first 12 minutes of the second half, enabling the Pumas a 32-18 offensive output to get within three points with 4:09 left to play.
“We didn’t play well,” Hepper said.
Morenci totaled 23 field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 13-16 free throws versus 18 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 4-8 free throws by Bisbee.
Olmsted notched a game-high 24 points on 11 field goals plus 2-3 free throws and Jordan Leonard 12 on three field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 4-5 free throws. Freshman Steven Shawn Michael Chavez Jr., Corona, and sophomore Dominik Waters added six points apiece, senior Chris Leonard and junior Matthew Silvester four each, and Mendoza two.
For Bisbee, Francisco Urcadez had 18 points on seven field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 1-2 free throws and David Ballesteros 10 on three field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-6 free throws. Edwardo Vasquez added nine points, Jordan Lopez five, Dante Lumpkin four, and Mauricio Valdez two.
Thatcher – 57, Morenci – 54
Thatcher broke a 36-36 three-period deadlock with a 21-18 final period outing. The Eagles’ final four points were scored from the free throw line, going 4-4. Their third period free throws were 3-3 and they finished 16-19 for the game.
Morenci totaled 14-30 free throws, 5-12 in the second half or 1-4 in the third period and 4-8 in the fourth period. The Wildcats were also outscored from the floor, making 16 field goals (eight 3-pointers) for 40 points compared to 17 field goals (seven 3-pointers) for 41 points by Thatcher.
A 16-12 opening period score favored the visitors, but the score was tied 26-26 at halftime.
Jordan Leonard posted a game-high 26 points on eight field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 4-8 free throws and in his first game back after an 11-game absence, Olmsted 14 on four field goals plus 6-14 free throws. Mendoza and Waters added six points apiece, and Silvester two.
For Thatcher, senior Brock Layton had 18 points on four field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 7-7 free throws, junior Matthew Palmer 13 on four field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 3-3 free throws, and junior Rulon White 10 on three field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 3-3 free throws. Junior Cole Motes added eight points, senior Tyler Roebuck five, and senior Trenton Ferrin three.
Morenci – 59, Lordsburg – 33
The Wildcats began 2018 with a 14-0 advantage before the visiting New Mexico Lordsburg Mavericks could find the range. Chris Leonard scored the game’s first two field goals, both layups, and Jordan Leonard’s two 3-pointers plus junior Ryan Hayes’ two short jump shots accounted for the 14 points.
“We did everything right in the first four minutes,” Hepper said.
Morenci moved well without the ball, maintained proper spacing and position for rebounds, and an open Wildcat was found for passes yielding high percentage shot attempts.
“I don’t know why we stopped doing that,” he said adding they did not play a complete game.
The Mavericks’ initial two points were scored with 4:15 elapsed in the game and their next two came with 26 seconds remaining in the opening period. Isaiah Harvey lit up the guest side of the scoreboard and Greg Cuevas added the second field goal.
An 11-4 Mavericks’ second period outing narrowed the deficit to eight points, 15-23, at halftime.
After trading five points in the opening 2:35 of the second half, Morenci went on a 9-0 run over the next minute to go ahead 37-20, 3-pointers were exchanged, and the Wildcats outscored the visitors 7-2 in the closing 3:40 of the third period to lead by 22 points, 47-25.
The Wildcats outscored the Mavericks 2-1, 36-18, in the second half.
Morenci connected on 23 field goals (nine 3-pointers) plus 4-7 free throws compared to 14 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 2-9 free throws by Lordsburg.
Seven Wildcats contributed to the scoring total, paced by Jordan Leonard’s 19 points on six field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 2-3 free throws and Hayes’ 17 on eight field goals (one 3-pointer). Chavez added nine points, Mendoza five, Chris Leonard four, Waters three, and junior Mario Esquivel two.
For Lordsburg, Ricky Huerta had 11 points on five field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 0-1 free throws. Kristian DeLaO added nine points, Cuevas eight, and Harvey five.