Yavapai has the right talent, but not attitude for national title
While it didn't finish last, Arizona Western's heartbreaking overtime loss in the NJCAA Region I championship game this past Friday was another example of how nice guys don't finish first.
The Yavapai squad that handed the Matadors a 105-97 season-ending defeat in Prescott is one of the most talent-rich teams in the country, but too often with talent comes a me-first attitude.
The Roughriders are a perfect example as they are a team full of cocky, selfish, hate-playing defense, moping-when-they-don't-get-the-ball-enough cry-babies, including at least two NCAA Division I throwbacks in Bryson Krueger (Vanderbilt) and Mark Konecny (Syracuse).
At one point in Friday's contest, Yavapai's second-year coach Brooks Thompson pulled aside shooting guard J.R. Reed and proceeded to rip into the sophomore for not playing hard on defense. Reed's response? "All right, all right. Tell them to get me the (expletive) ball more."
Reed's not alone, however. According to individuals within the school's athletic department, the battle for power (read "scoring") would rival that of the Kobe/Shaq saga in Los Angeles.
But Thompson, a former NBA player with the Magic, Nuggets, Knicks and Suns, deals with these talented but often class-less players for the greater probability of winning - Reed played the entire game and scored nine points in the overtime period.
Lost in excitement of the championship game and the coming-out party DeMario Butler had (49 points in two games) was the play of point guard Luis Pulido.
The freshman from Oakland, Calif., never looked unnerved at the magnitude of the games nor the screaming capacity crowd. Pulido played 72 minutes in the semifinals and finals, scoring a combined 14 points and dishing out six assists. But more importantly, he had just six turnovers, including none in a semifinal win over Mesa.
"We came a long way since the beginning," Pulido said after the loss. "We're going to be a hell of a team next year."
Top-seeded Glendale defeated Chandler-Gilbert, 67-62, to win the Region I, Division II championship. In the District I playoffs, the Gauchos defeated Rose State College (Okla.), 106-101, in the semifinals and beat Johnson County Community College (Kan.), 101-87, to advance to the Division II national tournament.
On the women's side, Central Arizona defeated Eastern Arizona 68-47 for the Division I championship, while Scottsdale beat Mesa 58-50 in the Division II title game. Both teams advanced to their respective national tournaments.
TRACK & FIELD
Arizona State freshman Jacquelyn Johnson, a 2003 Yuma High grad, has already put her name in the school's record book.
In just her fifth meet as a Sun Devil, Johnson finished second in the 60-meter hurdles (8.38 seconds) Saturday at the Iowa State Last Chance meet to provisionally qualify for the indoor national meet and move into third place on the school's all-time list.
Johnson was also part of the 1,600-meter relay team that posted the third-fastest time in school history (3:34.98) and the same meet.
The NCAA indoor nationals will be Friday and Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark., and the ASU's outdoor season begins March 19 at Sun Angel Stadium in Tempe.
After having a pair of doubleheaders rained out last week, the AWC softball team returned to action Tuesday with a pair of losses at Phoenix College.
The Matadors (16-7-1, 8-2 Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) will make up one of those doubleheaders at 2 p.m. today as they host Glendale. The two teams had just begun the second inning when the March 2 contest was postponed due to lighting and rain. They'll resume from that point with the Gauchos holding a 1-0 lead.
If you have any information regarding past Yuma-area high school athletes now competing at the collegiate level, Chris Gabel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6883.