Yuma Catholic sends two teams to state tournament
It's a big day to be a Shamrock.
Both the Yuma Catholic boys and girls teams will open up play of the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division IV State Tournament today at Bradshaw Mountain High School in Prescott.
The Shamrocks boys are entering red-hot from a run in the Division IV Section I tournament that ended with a loss to Phoenix Country Day in the championship. The girls had to wait through the sectional tournament as the No. 9 seed in Section I but still managed to sneak into state as the No. 23 seed.
On the boys' side, the No. 11 Shamrocks (13-8) open up against No. 22 Rock Point at 10:30 a.m. Yuma Catholic played Rock Point earlier in the year, in the Williams 66 Classic, beating the Cougars 60-52 on Dec. 2.
“I remember they had a big inside player and a bunch of scrappy guards on the outside,” Yuma Catholic coach Brooks Neumann said. “They like to play full-court, man-to-man defense.”
The Shamrocks will be coming into the game after a big confidence boost in the sectional tournament. As the No. 8 seed, they beat No. 1 Arizona Lutheran 57-56 and knocked off No. 4 Valley Lutheran 56-43, before falling to Phoenix Country Day 53-29 on Thursday. It proved that despite their youth, the Shamrocks can play with anybody.
“That was a big question they answered,” Neumann said. “They're playing with a lot of confidence and they're not getting caught up in the moment.”
Rock Point (12-6) finished as the No. 7 seed out of Section III and enters state after losing 55-49 to Grand Canyon, the No. 2 seed in the section.
The Shamrocks will be without freshman shooter Jagan Cleary, who did not travel with the team because of illness.
Neumann said after the sectional tournament, he isn't worried if his young Shamrocks fall behind early against the Cougars. “We (fell behind) 12 or 14 points to Arizona Lutheran and we came back. Obviously, there's no team that we can't comeback against.”
The 10:30 a.m. start could be difficult for the Shamrocks, who returned from Peoria late Thursday only to turn around and leave for the four- to five-hour drive to Prescott on Friday.
“This is what coaches call ‘trap games,'” Neumann said. “We played three emotional games and we come back and play an early game. But these kids are excited, they're ready to go.”
On the girls' side, the Shamrocks will be playing their first game since Feb. 1, and the 10-day break may have done Yuma Catholic some good.
“We had some really good practices this week,” Shamrocks coach Bob McGalliard said. “I thought our practice picked up when they found out we'd be in.”
The No. 23 Shamrocks (9-9) will open up the tournament at 1:30 p.m. against No. 10 San Miguel, which is led on offense by senior guard Maciel Moreno, who averages nearly 19 points a game.
“I think we defend the perimeter players pretty well,” McGalliard said. “To me, the better the team, the better we've played.”
San Miguel (15-6) finished as the No. 6 team out of Section II. The Vipers have a pair of 6-foot posts in Nissi Simmons (8.3 points a game) and Racheal Bailey (7.1) as well as wing Larissa Reed, who scored nearly 10 points a contest.
The Shamrocks will clearly be the underdog, but while McGalliard acknowledges the accomplishment of making the state tournament, he has his eyes on something bigger.
“We went 0-18 two years ago, and that's a big step to rebuild the program, but we're not happy just making it. We want to win.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson