Morenci girls slip past Bobcats in home opener

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Seniors Janeene Lang, left, and Ashley Hernandez lead the Wildcats into the gym for the home opener against Benson on Dec. 1. Morenci edged the Bobcats 35-34 in a 2A East Region contest.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

The Steve Chavez-coached Morenci basketball girls slipped past the Benson Bobcats 35-34 in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium on Dec. 1. St. David handed Morenci a 57-46 loss in the Wildcats’ season-opener Nov. 28. Seven Wildcats contributed scoring in both games.

Morenci then beat the Willcox Cowgirls, 42-40, on Tuesday, Dec. 5. They next head to the 3-day Round Valley Invitational in Eagar Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 7-9. The host Elks and the Cibecue Wildcats are the first-day opponents, at noon and 4:30 p.m., respectively, while the St.  Johns Redskins follow at noon on the second day, prior to the start of the bracket.

Other teams scheduled to participate are the Fort Thomas Apaches, the Ganado Hornets, the Heber Mogollon Mustangs, the Lakeside Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets, the Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Coyotes, the Pinon Eagles, the Sanders Valley Pirates, the Show Low Cougars, the Thatcher Eagles, and the Whiteriver Alchesay Falcons.

Morenci – 35, Benson – 34

The outcome was decided in the closing seconds. Benson rebounded senior Janeene Lang’s missed free throw with three seconds remaining, but a violation two seconds later gave the ball back to Morenci.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Sophomore Bridgid Silvester gave the Wildcats a 35-33 advantage with 31 seconds remaining.

Benson entered Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium with a 5-1 record and left with a second loss.

“They’re a good team,” Chavez said.

Sophomore Bridgid Sylvester’s field goal with 31 seconds left gave Morenci a 35-33 edge, but senior Ashley Hernandez’ fifth foul sent Benson senior Hailey Garner to the line. She made the first attempt and missed the second for the final score of the game.

There were 12 lead changes and four ties, three in the fourth period and the final two with 1:41 (31-31) and 1:02 (33-33) remaining. Benson freshman Emily Darwin made 1-2 free throws to tie 31-31 with 1:41 left, Garner made 2-2 free throws for a Benson 2-point advantage with 1:28 left, and senior Alex Chee connected for two to tie with 1:02 left.

The visitors controlled the opening tip and led 6-0 before junior Faith Hood lit up the home side of the scoreboard with 1:32 elapsed in the game. Hood rebounded Chee’s missed attempt and put it back up.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: The final score was Morenci-35, Benson-34.

Benson led by six once more, 20-14, with 6:00 left in the third period. Morenci’s largest lead was three, 23-20 with 2:21 left in the third period. Neither team led by more than two points in the final period. A full-court press was utilized throughout the game by both teams.

Morenci trailed 9-10 following the opening period, 14-16 at halftime, and 23-24 heading into the final period.

The Wildcats netted 15 field goals (five 3-pointers) plus 0-1 free throw compared to 11 field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 11-18 free throws by Benson.

Lang tallied 10 points on four field goals (two 3-pointers). Hernandez added nine points, Chee six, freshman Destinee Marquez four, and senior Destiny Apodaca, Hood, and Silvester two each.

For Benson, Darwin had 12 points on four field goals plus 4-7 free throws. Garner and junior Kaysen Maakestad added nine points apiece, and junior Jamie Barney and sophomore Megan Merrill two each.

Saint David – 57, Morenci – 46

The Wildcats outscored the host Tigers 28-26 in the second half but were unable to overcome the double-digit first-half deficit. A 1-point, 10-11, opening period deficit turned into a 13-point, 18-31, halftime deficit with an 8-20 second-period outing.

The Wildcats made 17 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 8-14 free throws versus 23 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 4-12 free throws by the Tigers.

Hernandez totaled 19 points on seven field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 1-1 free throws junior Rhiannon Lang 11 on five field goals plus 1-2 free throws. Janeene Lang and Silvester both added five points, Chee three, sophomore Desiree Babb two, and Apodaca one.

For Saint David, senior Kourtney Trejo notched a game-high 35 points on 13 field goals (seven 3-pointers) plus 2-5 free throws and sophomore Jaylin Richardson 12 on five field goals plus 2-2 free throws. Sophomore Kyra Richardson had six points, and both senior Mattea Hansen and sophomore Kyla Trejo two apiece.

Morenci – 42, Willcox – 40