Area teams ready for sectional tourney
The Cibola girls basketball team is going to have its hands full with a young and talented team in the opening round of the Division I Section I tournament.
The No. 6 Raiders (14-2) will face No. 3 Westview (15-3) at 5:45 p.m. today at Tolleson High School.
The Raiders are one of four Yuma teams gearing up for a sectional tournament. The Yuma Catholic boys play today, and the Kofa and Cibola boys are gearing up for games starting Wednesday.
With a young roster that relies heavily on sophomores, do not confuse Westview's youth for inexperience. Last season as freshmen, Westview made it to the semifinals of the 5A Division II state tournament, where it lost 62-37 to eventual champion Tolleson.
“I've seen them play last year in the Final Four, and they got their whole team back,” Cibola coach Justin Hager said of Westview, which is No. 6 in the state. “They're guard-oriented and I got all the information you can get, but that information doesn't help if you don't go out and execute.”
The Knights have a balanced offense, with no player averaging more than nine points a game. Sophomores Julie Cordova (8.9 points a game), Joanne Nimes (8.5), Renee Contreras (7.6) and Airianna Sesma (7.4) split up the scoring duties. Two of Westview's three losses came at the hand of Tolleson, the No. 2 team in the section and No. 4 in the state. The other was a two-point loss at Millennium, which is the No. 4 team in the section.
To keep up with the Knights, the Raiders will need to slow the game down and not fall into a fast-paced game Westview will be looking for.
“They're five guards and run, run, run, so we're going to try and slow down the pace of the game,” said Hager. “It'll be a tale of two tempos. We have to control it in the halfcourt. If it turns into a full-court game, there isn't going to be a game.”
The sectional tournament is made up of eight teams, with the top four finishers in the three sections automatically qualifying for the state tournament. The 24-team state tournament field will be made up of the 12 automatic qualifiers, and the rest of the bracket is made up of teams with the next 12 highest power points.
Currently, the Raiders are ranked No. 15 in the state.
“We want to get that win and secure a spot at state,” said Hager. “If not, I think we still could sneak in.”
The Yuma Catholic boys managed to squeeze their way into the Division IV Section I as the eight-seed. The Shamrocks (11-7) will face off against No. 1 Arizona Lutheran (15-3) at 7:30 p.m. today at Peoria High School.
“They've got a lot of seniors and they're really good defensively,” Shamrocks coach Brooks Neumann said about Arizona Lutheran.
The Coyotes are led on offense by senior guard Joe Burnside (12 points a game) and sophomore guard Kris Lamberson (10.4). With an extremely young lineup, Neumann isn't quite sure how his youthful Shamrocks will respond to playing in the playoffs.
“I wish I knew,” Neumann said. “But the last three days of practice have probably been the best we've had all year. The kids are excited and ready to go.”
In the Division I Section I tournament, No. 7 Kofa (10-8) faces off against No. 2 Lake Havasu (16-1) at 5:45 p.m. Wednesday at Westview High School.
It will be the third time the Kings and the Knights have played this season. On Nov. 29, the Kings lost 54-47 at Lake Havasu and Kofa lost by the nearly identical score of 55-47 on Feb. 1.
Kofa, which is coming into the game on a four-game losing streak, will need to win at least one game at the sectional tournament to qualify for the state tournament. Being ranked No. 33 in all sections, Kofa will not have the safety net of a secured state spot to rely on.
A key factor for the Kings will be whether they can contain Lake Havasu's 6-foot-2 senior guard Brandon Neskahi, who comes into the game averaging 21 points a game. In the two previous games against Kofa, Neskahi scored 24 and 27 points. In their final game of the regular season, the Kings stormed back after trailing 27-12 in the second quarter. Despite having the lead in the fourth quarter, the Kings were clearly worn out and ended up falling 61-54 to the Raiders.
A win over Havasu will snap the recent skid the Kings have been on and will qualify them for the state tournament.
While the Raiders are the only girls team from the area in the sectional tournament, Yuma Catholic still has an outside shot at making the state tournament.
The Shamrocks finished No. 9 in Division IV Section I but are currently sitting at No. 22 in Division IV and will continue to practice despite not playing in the sectional tournament.
“The way I look at it, three teams have to get upset to knock us out,” Shamrocks coach Bob McGalliard said. “We're going on the assumption that we're in.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson