By Raymundo Frasquillo
There is no joy in Mudville with a capital white ‘M’ as Morenci’s boys basketball team succumbed by two points, 48-50, during a play-in home game Feb. 11. An inside high-percentage shot by the Glendale Prep Griffins’ Luke Allen dropped through the net with eight seconds remaining. The Wildcats were scoreless in the final 1:48.
The Wildcats called a time out, set up a final play, and an errant court-length inbounds pass was tipped out of bounds. The final seconds wound down without the home team taking a shot. Morenci ended with a 16-11 overall record and was 6-3 in Wildcat Memorial Gymnasium.
On the previous night on the same court, the Morenci girls basketball team had its season ended in a play-in game, with a 51-52 loss to the Keams Canyon Hopi Bruins, after being unable to steal the ball during the closing 5.6 seconds of play.
Two other East Region members, Thatcher and Willcox were also involved in play-in games. Thatcher advanced to the 2A state tourney with a 55-39 home win over the Chandler Arizona College Prep Knights and Willcox was eliminated by an 81-68 loss at the Gilbert Leading Edge Spartans.
The state tourney first round begins Friday, Feb. 17, in the Prescott area and concludes Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Prescott Valley Events Center.
Seventh-ranked Thatcher (13-5 power record, 8.4121 rating) takes on No. 10 Pinon (12-6, 5.0092) on the Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain High campus at 3 p.m. and top-rated Pima (18-0, 21.7811) hosts No. 16 Kingman Academy (12-6, minus 0.3681) on Yavapai Community College’s campus at 4:30 p.m.
Yavapai hosts No. 5 Gilbert Christian (15-3, 11.1189) versus No. 12 Leading Edge (12-6, 4.9535) at 1:30 p.m. and No. 4 Scottsdale Christian (15-3, 16.2547) vs. No. 13 Sedona Red Rock (13-4, 3.0738) at 6 p.m.; Bradshaw Mountain hosts No. 6 Tucson Saint Augustine (16-2, 10.1162) vs. No. 11 Scottsdale Rancho Solano Prep (12-6, 3.8820) at 9 a.m.; Prescott Valley Events Center hosts No. 3 San Carlos (16-2, 15.7707) vs. No. 14 Paradise Honors (14-4, 1.4236) at 4:30 p.m. and No. 2 Whiteriver Alchesay (17-1, 16.6580) vs. No. 15 Glendale Prep (12-6, minus 0.1163) at 7:30 p.m.; and Prescott High hosts No. 8 Phoenix Horizon Honors (16-2, 6.4693) vs. No. 9 Eloy Santa Cruz (12-6, 5.0092) at noon.
Morenci vs. Glendale Prep
The visitors controlled the opening tip, but failed to score during their initial three possessions. Morenci’s Edward Castellano scored the first basket with 1:40 elapsed in the game.
Glendale Prep tied the score on a pair of Zach Hendricks’ free throws 17 seconds later, and a Malcom Santelli 3-pointer gave the Griffins their first advantage with nearly three minutes elapsed.
The Wildcats answered with a 6-4 effort during the remaining five minutes. A John Olmsted basket, another by Castellano for 2-8 shots plus a pair of free throws verses 2-9 Griffins’ baskets left Morenci trailing by one, 8-9, at the start of the second period.
Morenci reeled off 13 unanswered points during the first 3:17 of the second period, going 5-5 from the field to take a 12-point, 21-9 advantage, compared to 0-2 field goals plus 0-2 free throws for the Griffins. Andres Nofchissey added six points, Castellano four and Jordan Leonard three.
Glendale Prep inched back, making a 12-6 run to trail by six, 27-21, at halftime. Pearce Nolly contributed eight points and both Carson Von Aspen and Santelli two apiece for the Griffins, while Castellano, Nofchissey and John Olmsted had two more each for Morenci.
The Griffins’ starters returned with an 18-11 third period outing to take a 39-38 edge into the final eight minutes. Nolly added five points, Allen four, and Hendricks, Noah Roundy and Santelli three apiece. Allen’s last shot attempt dropped through the net as the buzzer sounded.
Morenci was limited to Richard Little’s four points, three from Jordan Leonard and two each from Chris Leonard and Nofchissey.
The Wildcats retook the lead midway through the fourth period as Little, Chris Leonard and Nofchissey connected on 3-8 Wildcats field goal attempts plus 0-3 free throws for six points compared to four points on 1-2 field goals plus 2-2 free throws by the Griffins. Nolly made the basket and Allen put in the free throws.
A Nolly 3-pointer with 3:51 left was answered by a pair of Olmsted free throws for a 46-46 tie 14 seconds later and a Nofchissey basket gave Morenci a 48-46 edge with 2:09 left.
Two Nolly free throws tied the score at 48-48 with 1:48 left. The Griffins missed two more field goal attempts, both 3-pointers before Allen made the game-winner.
For the game, Morenci totaled 21 field goals (one 3-pointer) plus 5-9 free throws compared to 18 field goals (eight 3-pointers) plus 6-9 free throws for Glendale Prep.
Nofchissey tallied a team-high 14 points on seven field goals plus 0-2 free throws and Castellano 12 on five field goals plus 2-2 free throws. Jordan Leonard added eight points, Olmsted six and both Chris Leonard and Richard Little four apiece.
Glendale Prep got a game-high 20 points from Nolly on seven field goals (four 3-pointers) plus 2-2 free throws and 10 from Allen on four field goals plus 2-2 free throws. Santelli added eight points, Hendricks five, Aspen four and Roundy three.