By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – The Patrick Hepper-coached Morenci basketball boys opened the season with a trio of wins over Cochise County schools, 52-24 over the Tigers in St. David on Nov. 28, 56-32 over the Benson Bobcats in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium on Dec. 1, and 49-39 over the Willcox Cowboys on Dec. 5.
The Wildcats next head to the 3-day Round Valley Invitational in Eagar on Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 7-9. The Whiteriver Alchesay Falcons and the Saint Johns Redskins are the first-day opponents, at noon and 4:30 p.m., respectively, while the Holbrook Roadrunners follow at noon on the second day prior to the start of the bracket.
Other teams slated to join the host Elks in the Round Valley Dome are the Fort Thomas Apaches, the Heber Mogollon Mustangs, the Holbrook Roadrunners, the Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Coyotes, the Pinon Eagles, the Safford Bulldogs, the Sanders Valley Pirates, the Show Low Cougars, and the Thatcher Eagles.
Morenci – 52, Benson – 32
“We try to play at a pace our opponent is not used to and force them to do things they are uncomfortable doing,” Hepper said. “We’re 10-players deep.”
The Wildcats did exactly that, forcing the Bobcats to hurry 13 shots from the floor plus a couple of free throws during a 13-minute span while taking a 32-point, 48-16 advantage with 8-16 floor (two 3-pointers) plus 7-11 line shots. Dominic Waters had seven points, Ryan Hates and Jordan Leonard five apiece, David Corona four, and both Christopher Leonard and John Olmsted three each.
Benson went scoreless for 13 minutes, 11 seconds adding its 16th point with 5:47 left in the second period to trail by five, 21-16. The deficit was 32 before the Bobcats totaled 18 points, with 36 seconds left in the third period.
Morenci enjoyed a 48-18 advantage heading into the final eight minutes.
The Wildcats netted 17 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 18-26 free throws compared to 13 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 2-5 free throws by Benson.
Olmsted tallied 14 points on three field goals plus 8-11 free throws, Waters 12 on five field goals (two 3-pointers), and Hayes 11 on three field goals plus 5-8 free throws. Jordan Leonard added six points, Corona four, Shawn Michael Chavez and Christopher Leonard three apiece, Maddux Martinez two, and Diego Mendoza one.
For Benson, Javier McGuillen had eight points, sophomore Talon Palmer seven, junior Bravon Berryhill and senior Brandon Dixon six apiece, Diego Nikitas three, and junior Ethan Coleman two.
Morenci – 52, St. David – 24
A 17-point, 32-15, halftime margin was extended to 32, 49-17, following the third period as the Wildcats limited the host Tigers to two points while adding 17. Morenci led 13-8 following the opening period.
The Wildcats made 20 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 4-8 free throws versus 10 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 1-1 free throw by the Tigers.
Jordan Leonard tallied 13 points on five field goals (two 3-pointers) and Hayes 10 on four Field goals (two 3-pointers). Olmsted added eight points, Mendoza seven, Corona and Matthew Silvester five each, and both Chavez and Martinez two apiece.
For Saint David, James Mayberry had seven points, Adam Dabavich six, Christian McGrath four, Robby Goodner three, and both Reo Larson and Dawson Meader two each.
Morenci – 49, Willcox – 39