Hurtado shining for Shamrocks after injury earlier in the season
After Yuma Catholic defeated Salome on the last day of November, sophomore Peter Hurtado wasn't celebrating with his team in the locker room.
Instead, he was reclined in a chair with his Shamrock jersey covered in blood.
In his first basketball game since playing offensive guard and defensive end for the Shamrocks' state champion football team, Hurtado spent his night getting his two front teeth fixed.
A few minutes into third quarter, Hurtado was helping defend a pick and roll when a Salome player jumped to pass the ball and his elbow hit Hurtado square in the mouth.
His right front tooth was knocked completely out and the left front tooth was hanging by a thread.
“I remember we were on defense and I saw his mouth was full of blood,” Shamrock post Matt Pistone said.
Despite being on defense, Yuma Catholic coach Brooks Neumann was able to get the referee to stop the game after an unusual argument.
“I was yelling at the ref ‘Timeout! Timeout!' And he says ‘No, you got to get the ball.' And I said, ‘He's got his teeth in his hand!” Neumann said.
Hurtado's welcome back to basketball became a long night in the dentist's office. His parents drove the two hours back to Yuma and Hurtado went through a late night, emergency dental procedure.
After a pair of root canals, he wouldn't play again until Jan. 6 against Lake Havasu. His teammates had a month of basketball conditioning under their belts so when Hurtado returned — with a full set of teeth and a prescription mouthguard — it was an uphill climb to get into shape.
“It was hard at the beginning, I was rusty and my shot was off,” Hurtado said.
But he seems to be all up to speed now — and his timing couldn't be better. The Shamrocks will take on No. 6 El Capitan in the second round of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division IV State Tournament at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott.
The No. 11 Shamrocks defeated No. 22 Rock Point 72-59 in the first round, with Hurtado scoring 17 points. During his condensed season of 16 games, the sophomore guard is averaging 10.9 points a game for the Shamrocks.
This Shamrocks team has become something of an anomaly this season. Rosters full of freshmen and sophomores aren't supposed to be doing what the Shamrocks are doing. Teams must wait until they are juniors and seniors before they make a run in the state playoffs.
But with these Shamrocks, they have experience playing together — and more importantly, they have talent.
“Carter (Rodriguez), me and Jagan (Cleary) have been playing together since we were like 10 or 12,” Pistone said of the freshmen, who played together at the AAU level. “And Peter has such a high IQ where it didn't take long for us to get really good chemistry with him.”
Neumann was surprised at how good his young players would be. “The talent we have in our freshman and sophomore class is a lot better than I thought it was going to be.”
Hurtado, who is playing the same position that two-time Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Boys Basketball Player of the Year Bradley Crye did for the Shamrocks, has become a valuable offense weapon for the young Shamrocks.
“He can shoot it or drive it. Carter is an outside player, Matt is an inside player and Peter can do both,” Neumann said.
In the Division IV Section I tournament, Hurtado scored 13 in the Shamrocks 57-56 upset against Arizona Lutheran, the top seed in the section. The next night, he dropped 20 points in a double-digit win over No. 4 Valley Lutheran.
It has become a fast finish to a season that began on a monthlong delay for Hurtado.
“When he came back he did all right, nothing great. I thought he was going to be our best player and he wasn't even there for a freaking semester,” Neumann said. “But now he's playing as well as anybody for us.”
There's a certain irony that Hurtado went through the entire football season playing the rugged positions of offensive line and defensive end without ending his night with a blood-stained jersey.
“I never got hurt in football. Never sprained my ankle or anything.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson