Shamrocks hoops ready for state tourney
It's the first time in the state playoffs for the Yuma Catholic basketball teams.
Most teams celebrate this kind of accomplishment. Yet neither squad is completely satisfied with it.
The boys (20-8) and girls (21-8) both entered play in last week's Desert Region tournaments with a first-round bye. But only Jeff Leo's girls took advantage of the bye, reaching the region finals before losing to Tucson-Pusch Ridge.
Brooks Neumann's boys dropped their two games to fall to the region's fourth seed for the state tournament. It leaves the Shamrocks with something to prove today as they face North Region champion St. Johns at 7:15 p.m. at Tempe High.
The girls, a second seed, will play Mary Farms at 5 p.m. at Phoenix-South Mountain High.
Boys determined to rally
The Shamrocks played what amounted to a road game against Baboquivari on Saturday at the region tournament because the Warriors' fans numbered close to 2,000, according to Neumann. Yuma Catholic came out on the wrong end of a 64-44 final, then lost to Tucson St. Gregory, 50-46, in the third-place game.
"In region, we lost our composure and didn't play well," Neumann said. "We'll have to play better (to advance). But everybody starts with a clean slate at state. We feel like we have new life."
Neumann thinks his squad can beat St. Johns, which uses a full-court press, if the Shamrock guards can handle the pressure. The onus will be on starters Lucas Spencer and Luis Samaniego and reserve Steve Arguelles.
Reserve post Brandon Oldham, who performed well during the region tournament and moves well in the full court game, may also play a key role against St. Johns.
Above all, Neumann insisted the Shamrocks must not look ahead in the bracket.
"I know it's a cliche, but we must take it one game at a time," he said. "If you look ahead, you get knocked off."
Girls hoping to compete
Leo's squad did what it wanted during the region tournament in securing one of the top two seeds.
"We were pretty tired, playing two games in one day," Leo said. "We played a good first quarter against Pusch Ridge but then fall off."
As a result, the girls' squad has different motivation to succeed.
"A lot of these girls played on the volleyball team (that reached the state playoffs), and they didn't show up," Leo said. "But the girls have more basketball experience. I think we can win our first-round game and see what happens after that."
The scouting report on Many Farms is that it has good outside shooting and a two tall post players. Leo thinks Yuma Catholic can beat Many Farms, but wasn't going to guarantee victory.
"In the state tournament, who knows?," he said. "It just depends on who is more relaxed.
"I know that we're peaking at the right time," he added. "In our first game Saturday (during the region tournament), we were up 19 at the half against a good Desert Christian team. So, I think we'll play well at state."
Two of the key Shamrocks are forward Vicky Moreno and guard Adrianna Villalobos. Moreno brings the intensity that the team feeds off of, Leo said. Villalobos, who leads the team in shot attempts, must be patient and selective.
Leo will also look for post Michelle Baltimore to turn in a double-double, which has been the norm lately.
Nick Taylor can be reached at Ntaylor@yumasun.com or 782-6520.