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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.