Safford boys squelch Pima three-peat bid, earn ninth tourney title

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Safford left Guitteau Gymnasium with the first place trophy of the boys 55th Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney Dec. 20. The Bulldogs downed Duncan, 74-32, in round one Dec. 18, Thatcher, 73-53, in the semifinals Dec. 19, and Pima, 58-50, in the final. Members of the Terry Williams-coached team were, not in order, Stratton Baldwin, A.J. Camarena, Marcus Castro, Jejdrique Chavez, Drew Cochran, Epoch Frye, Dominic Gutierrez, Hunter Mullins, Andrew Smith, Lane Smith, and Collin Thompson.

EAC Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament rundown

By Raymundo Frasquillo

THATCHER – Third-seeded Safford had its say in the outcome of the three-day 55th annual Eastern Arizona Holiday Tourney in Guitteau Gymnasium on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs turned a 14-13 opening period edge into a 58-50 win over top seed Pima and the meet title.

Safford topped sixth seed Duncan, 74-32, in the first round and upset second seed Thatcher, 73-53, in the semifinals. Pima reached the championship game with wins of 66-31 over eighth seed Willcox in the first round and 60-21 over fifth seed Fort Thomas in the semifinals.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Towering forwards, Safford 6-2 sophomore Collin Thompson (32) and Pima 6-4 junior Dawson Pruszynski (12), stand up following a championship game loose-ball battle as the shorter guard Manny Ramirez recovers the ball. Thompson totaled 15 points and Pruszynski 20, and both were selected to the all-tourney team.

Fort Thomas upset Thatcher, 69-57, for third place, fourth seed Morenci downed Duncan, 50-44, for fifth place, and Willcox upset seventh seed St. David, 46-42, for seventh place.

Advancing in the consolation round were Morenci and Duncan with wins of 67-35 over Willcox and 72-42 over St. David, respectively.

The other first-round winners were Fort Thomas (67-57 over Morenci) and Thatcher (71-28 over St. David).

Safford (10-5 overall, 2-3 seeding record, minus 0.1913 rating, 0-1 Central Region for 4th tie) is ranked 18th of 37 teams in 3A; Pima (14-2, 7-0, 13.6299, 4-0 East Region record for 1st) remains the state’s top ranked of 50 teams in 2A, Thatcher (7-6, 4-1, 8.0552, 2-0 East Region for 2nd) is 10th, Morenci (6-9, 3-3, minus 0.3392, 2-1 East Region for 3rd) is 28th, and Willcox (3-7, 2-5, minus 6.6240, 0-4 East Region for7th) is 43rd; Fort Thomas (9-6, 5-2, 5.8057, 1-0 East Region for 1st) is second of 41 teams in 1A, St. David (3-9, 3-3, minus 2,6360, 3-0 South Region for 1st) is 16th, and Duncan (5-5, 4-3, minus 3.8178, 0-0 East Region for 3rd) is 19th.

Championship Game

Points were matched within the opening two minutes for a 4-4 tie. Pima added six, two each by junior forward Dawson Pruszynski, senior guard Trey Thompson, and Pruszynski for a 10-4 advantage over the ensuing 2:53.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Pima senior Andrew Taylor (4) leaps up to make a pass over Safford junior Dominic Gutierrez (12) on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs turned a 14-13 opening period edge into a 58-50 win and the tourney title. Neither guard scored. Taylor was selected to the all-tourney team.

Safford went on a 7-0 run with junior forward Drew Cochran’s 3-pointer, sophomore forward Collin Thompson’s 2-2 free throws, and junior guard Andrew Smith’s field goal to get the Bulldogs’ initial lead of the game, 11-10, with 2:09 left in the period.

The teams traded 3-pointers, by Trey Thompson 28 seconds later and by Smith 22 seconds after that, giving the visiting Bulldogs a 14-13 edge after eight minutes.

Pima senior guard Frank Gutierrez drilled a 3-pointer to tie the score at 16-16 with 49 seconds elapsed in the second period. The third tie of the game was broken by a Thompson field goal 1:34 later and the Bulldogs would not relinquish the lead during the remainder of the game.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Safford junior guard Andrew Smith looks over the defense before deciding on how to attack it. He was selected all-tourney

The Roughriders got within two, 24-26, on Trey Thompson’s field goal with 4:53 left in the third period, but no closer.

A pair of fourth-period field goals by Cochran gave the Bulldogs 15-point leads, 55-49 with 2:26 and 57-42 with 1:52 left to play.

Pima senior guard Manny Rivera pared the deficit to single digits 58 seconds later, 48-59, but the Roughriders ran out of time.

Safford totaled 21 field goals (six 3-pointers) plus 10-19 free throws compared to 22 field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 7-12 free throws by Pima.

Cochran tallied a game-high 23 points on eight field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 6-11 free throws, Thompson 15 on five field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 4-6 free throws, and Smith 11 on four field goals (three 3-pointers). Freshman guard Jejdrique Chavez added five points and senior center Stratton Baldwin four.

For Pima, Pruszynski totaled 20 points on six field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 7-10 free throws and Thompson 19 on nine field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 0-2 free throws. Rivera added eight points and Gutierrez three.

Third Place Game

The Apaches doubled their third-period output, 26-13, over the Eagles to lead by 15, 51-36, heading into the final eight minutes of play. Spurts of speed, coupled with spacing and court-length passes on fast-break lay-ups resulting from rebounded Thatcher missed shots led to the large margin. Fort Thomas had a 24-23 halftime edge after leading 15-9 following the opening period.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Fort Thomas sophomore guard Malachi Rogers (10) uses a jab-step and head fake to move Thatcher freshman Michael Greer (21) away from where he wanted to go. Rogers had 16 points, Greer five, in the third place game. Rogers was selected to the all-tourney team.

Thatcher mustered 21 fourth period points but needed another 12 to tie.

Fort Thomas ended with 26 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 16-31 free throws compared to 21 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 7-10 free throws for Thatcher.

Senior forward Kolbe Talgo dropped in a game-high 21 points on nine field goals plus 3-5 free throws, sophomore guard Skylar Kindelay 19 on nine field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 0-2 free throws, and sophomore guard Malachi Rogers 16 on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 7-12 free throws. Sophomore forward Latrell Titla added six points, sophomore guard Brad Johnson four, and senior guard Iverson Nelson three.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Fort Thomas senior Kobe Talgo gets past Thatcher junior Trace Goodman for a layup. The Apaches had a 26-13 third-period outing en route to finishing in third place. Talgo was named to the all-tourney team.

For Thatcher, juniors, forward Cole Motes and guard Matthew Palmer, contributed 15 points apiece, on six field goals plus 3-4 free throws and six field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 1-2 free throws, respectively, and guard senior Trenton Ferrin 12 on four field goals (three 3-pointers) plus 1-2 free throws. Senior guard Brock Layton added seven points, freshman guard Michael Greer five, and junior guard Trace Goodman three.

Fifth Place Game

Two of the game’s three ties were in the 10-10 opening period showdown of Greenlee County teams in Graham County. The 3-point, 27-24, Morenci halftime margin was doubled by the start of the final eight minutes, and both teams added 11 fourth period points.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Morenci junior guard Jordan Leonard gets around Duncan junior guard Michael Lennon during the fifth-place game. Leonard tied two single meet game scoring records, the fourth player to get seven 3-pointers and the 21st to end with 28 points, and was selected to the all-tourney team. Lennon had six points.

Duncan senior forward Joseph Malinaro dialed long distance resulting in a 33-33 tie, the games’ last one, with 2:06 left in the third period. Morenci junior guard Jordan Leonard countered with a 3-pointer of his own 1:04 later plus his and-one play gave the white-clad Wildcats the lead for good. Leonard finished with a game-high 28 points on 10 field goals (two 3-pointers) plus 6-10 free throws.

Morenci sophomore forward Dominik Waters added a 3-pointer 10 seconds into the final period and freshman guard Diego Mendoza a field goal 23 seconds after that, putting the Wildcats ahead by 11 points, 44-33, within the initial minute of the fourth period.

Duncan went on an 11-6 spurt during the final 4:21, but it would not be enough as the red-clad Wildkats needed six more points to tie.

Morenci totaled 18 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 10-18 free throws versus 17 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 6-12 free throws by Duncan.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Morenci senior Chris Leonard gets past Morenci junior Wesley Conyer for a third-period field goal. Conyer ended with seven points.

Waters added eight points, Mendoza seven, senior guard Christopher Leonard three, and freshmen guard Steven Shawn-Michael Chavez Jr. and forward Maddux Martinez two apiece.

For Duncan, senior forward Braden Basteen reached double figures with 11 points on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 2-2 free throws. Junior forward Wesley Conyer and sophomore guard Chris Smith both had seven points, sophomore guard Michael Lennon and Malinaro six apiece, sophomore forward Lucas Basteen three, and both sophomore center Cliff Hansen and freshman forward Nathan Kempton two each.

Seventh Place Game

The Cochise County showdown in Graham County seemed to favor the Cowboys, with leads of 12-10 after the opening period and 26-18 at halftime.

St. David outscored Willcox 11-7 in the third period, but the Cowboys still led 33-26 heading into the final eight minutes of play. Thirteen points were added by both teams in the fourth period.

For the game, Willcox connected on 18 field goals plus 10-19 free throws compared to 13 field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 12-17 free throws by Saint David.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Morenci junior Ryan Hayes (20) attempts to control his dribble as he drives to the basket. Duncan sophomore Chris Smith (4) moves his feet defensively.

Willcox senior center Kade Norris netted 14 points on four field goals plus 6-8 free throws and both junior guard/forward Tanner DeBaun and freshman guard Cael DeBaun 12, each on five field goals plus 2-5 free throws. Senior forwards Javi Garcia and Elijah Sheppard added four points apiece.

For the Tigers, senior post Norris Mayberry tallied 17 points on five field goals plus 7-9 free throws and senior guard Dawson Meador 10 on four field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 1-2 free throws.

All-tourney team

Safford junior guard Andrew Smith (36 points, 12.0 points per game) and sophomore forward Collin Thompson (45 pts., 15.0 ppg) along with Pima junior forward Dawson Pruszynski (54 pts., 18.0 ppg) and senior guards Andrew Taylor (12 pts., 4.0 ppg) and Trey Thompson (42 pts., 14.0 ppg) were selected to the all-tourney team.

Bulldogs junior forward Drew Cochran (47 pts., 15.7 ppg) was named most valuable player.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Selected to the 14-member 55th EA Holiday all-tourney team were, front, from left, Trey Thompson and Andrew Taylor of Pima; back, from left, Drew Cochran and Andrew Smith of Safford, Dawson Pruszynski of Pima, Collin Thompson of Safford, Cole Motes and Matt Palmer of Thatcher, Malachi Rogers and Kobe Talgo of Fort Thomas, Jordan Leonard of Morenci, and Braden Basteen of Duncan. Not pictured James Mayberry of St. David and Kade Norris of Willcox.

The rest of the all-tourney team included Fort Thomas senior forward Kobe Talgo (57 pts., 19.0 ppg) and sophomore guard Malachi Rogers (25 pts., 8.3 ppg), Thatcher juniors, forward Cole Motes (47 pts., 15.7 ppg) and guard Matthew Palmer (23 pts., 7.7 ppg), Morenci junior guard Jordan Leonard (64 pts., 21.3 ppg), Duncan senior forward Braden Basteen (33 pts., 11.0 ppg), Willcox senior center Kade Norris (37 pts., 12.3 ppg), and Saint David senior post James Mayberry (43 pts., 14.3 ppg).

Talgo and Pruszynski were also on the 2016 all-tourney team.

Tourney Records

It was the third-seeded Bulldogs’ 20th tourney championship game appearance, the ninth title, and the second win in three championship pairings with the Roughriders. Safford won two in a row twice, in 1984-85 (9th-10th) and in 2003-04 (41st-42nd).

Pima is 7-5 in title games, with a meet record five straight wins from 1970-74 (8th-12th). The Roughriders have participated in each of the previous 54 meets while Safford did not enter the first 11. Pima has an 83-80 overall record and Safford 89-41.

It was the third straight year with the same eight teams. Pima is 8-1; Safford 7-2; Fort Thomas, Morenci, and Thatcher 5-4 apiece; and Duncan, St. David, and Willcox each 2-7 in the same three-year span.

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Fort Thomas sophomore Skylar Kindelay (14) looks to pass the ball as he steps into the top of the key with a pair of Eagles, juniors Matthew Palmer (25) and Cole Motes (35), on his heels. Kindelay netted 19 points, and both Eagles 15 during the third place game. Motes and Palmer were both selected to the all-tourney team.

Beginning as a six-team, two-day meet with two games on the first day and five on the second day, the ensuing 54 tourneys included eight teams with four games each in three days, unless a last-minute cancelation occurred, and one team ended with three wins, three 2-1, three 1-2, and one 0-3. Sierra Vista Buena topped Duncan 87-63 for the title, Clifton edged Fort Thomas 68-66 for third place, and Thatcher slipped past Pima 50-46 in overtime for fifth place.

Sixteen teams have participated in the 21st-century tourneys. In those 18 meets, Thatcher is 41-12 with only two games played in 2001, Safford 40-14, Pima 27-27, Willcox 23-31, Duncan 20-34, and Fort Thomas 16-38. Morenci is 16-17 in 11 tourneys (45th-55th), Clifton 5-16 in seven (38th-44th), Holbrook 14-4 in six (42nd-47th), St. David 2-10 in four (41st, 53rd-55th), Tucson Tanque Verde 4-5 in three (50th-52nd), and five one-time entrants, Mexico Academia Juarez 2-1 (38th), Globe 2-1 (48th), Payson 2-1 (40th), Benson 1-2 (48th), and Bowie 0-3 (41st).

Three other teams have been in all 55 meets. Thatcher is 107-53 (two games in 1963, 1967, 1973, 1979), Fort Thomas 75-89, and Duncan 69-75 (two games in 1998).

Willcox is 60-67 in 39 meets (14th-19th, 23rd-55th), Morenci 55-40 in 35 (4th-7th, 18th-37th, 45th-55th), and Saint David 2-10 in four (41st, 53rd-55th).

A total of 28 different schools have been represented in the 55 meets. Clifton ended 41-89 in 44 (1st-44th), Eagar Round Valley 11-7 in six (6th, 10th, 15th-16th, 20th-21st), Bowie 1-14 in five (2nd-3rd, 9th-10th, 41st), Sahuarita 4-8 in four (8th-11th), Kearny Ray 8-1 in three (2nd-4th), Winkelman Hayden 6-3 in three (5th-7th), New Mexico Lordsburg 3-6 in three (7th-9th), Elfrida Valley Union 2-7 in three (3rd, 12th-13th), Show Low 2-7 in three (12th-13th, 22nd), Superior 4-2 in two (2nd, 4th), Buena 3-0 in one (1st), Tombstone 3-0 in one (14th), San Simon 2-1 in one (8th), and Apache Junction 0-2 in one (two in 11th).

Tourney Individual Records

Kobe Talgo’s 31 points for Fort Thomas during the 67-57 game 4 first round win over Morenci elevated him with nine others who reached that mark, the first being Pima’s Mark McBride during the 60-49 game 4 first round win over Morenci in the 4th meet and the last Duncan’s Daniel Corona during the 54-53 consolation round win over Willcox in the 52nd meet.

Frank Campos, of Superior, has scored the single game most points, 47, during a 70-72 loss to Kearny Ray in the game 3 first round of the 4th meet and three others have scored 42 or more points.

The 28 points scored by Morenci’s Jordan Leonard in the fifth-place game with Duncan tied 20 other individual efforts for the same amount, the first by Clifton’s Karl Shade during a 68-66 third place win in the first meet and the last by Duncan’s Jason Attaway during a 65-73 semifinal loss to Thatcher in the 34th meet.

Leonard’s seven 3-pointers during the 57-67 first round loss to Fort Thomas tied three other efforts, Morenci’s Jeremy Vanegas during the 26th tourney seventh-place, 54-53, win over Duncan, Clifton’s Marc Cueto during the 33rd third-place, 67-76, loss to Fort Thomas, and Holbrook’s Kory Koerperich during the 46th game 2 first round 75-67 win over Duncan.

Thatcher’s Carson Goodman holds the single game most 3-pointers scored, eight in a game 2 first round 58-37 win over Fort Thomas in the 52nd meet.