Cinderella has left the dance.
Actually there were three teams vying for the “Cinderella” label at this years’ girls’ basketball Division I state tournament as No. 9 Red Mountain High, No. 10 Horizon High, and No. 11 Gilbert High were all making a bid yesterday to advance to the semifinals.
All had their dreams dashed by the top three seeds in the tourney.
Gilbert (24-4) made believers out of the fans in Arizona State‘s Wells Fargo Arena, leading after the first quarter in their late afternoon match-up with Hamilton High (19-11), and then taking a 20-16 advantage into the locker room at halftime. And then the Tigers held on through the second half as the lead changed hands numerous times before the game knotted at 40 with two minutes left to go in regulation.
But a lay-up by Hamilton’s junior guard Hannah White broke the tie and gave the Huskies a lead they would hold the rest of the way to a 45-40 victory.
Gilbert’s freshman guard Haley Cavinder scored 18 points, 12 of them from behind the arc, to lead all scorers. Maya Banks, Hamilton’s 6’3″ junior center, gave the Huskies’ offense a big boost with her 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Next up on the day’s schedule were the Horizon Huskies, who made their upset bid against No. 2 Valley Vista High in the first game of the evening. But as the night wore on, the would-be Cinderellas were finding it harder and harder to advance.
Valley Vista (22-6) used a talented back court and a 17-7 run in the third quarter to blow open the 6 o’clock game and post a 58-41 rout over Horizon (17-13) to propel it into a semifinal meeting with Hamilton. And in the night’s finale, top-seeded Mesquite High rolled over Red Mountain, jumping out to a 15-point lead at halftime and extending its runaway performance into a 68-31 romp and a spot opposite No. 5 Desert Vista High in the semis.
It was Valley Vista’s guard tandem of sophomore Taylor Chavez and senior Cerena Reeves that powered the Monsoon offense, with Reeves leading all scorers with 23 points – on 69 percent shooting from the field – and Chavez adding 17 points.
The Monsoon also dominated the rebounding, pulling down 50 boards to Horizon’s 30.
But it was Mesquite that recorded the ultimate domination in the final game of the day, using a smothering press and aggressive defense to run up a 21-9 lead on Red Mountain after the first quarter and kept the lid on the rest of the way. By the time the fourth quarter arrived, the Wildcats had run up a 30-point lead to force the game into a running clock for the final eight minutes.
Red Mountain was able to control the boards, with a 47-30 rebounding advantage, but it was Mesquite’s disruptive defense that spelled the difference, forcing 36 turnovers and holding the Mountain Lions to 25 percent shooting.
Sophomore guard Shaylee Gonzales took care of business on the other side of the ball, leading the Mesquite offense with 26 points, while also contributing six assists and seven rebounds.
In the fourth contest, which was actually the first one on the day’s schedule, there was no chance for a real upset. That game pitted No. 4 Millennium High School (23-7) against No. 5 Desert Vista High (20-6).
Desert Vista took a page from Mesquite’s play book, using an aggressive defensive effort to post a 42-35 win, breaking Millennium’s 10-game win streak and setting up a meeting with Mesquite in the semifinals.
One thing likely in that next game: there probably won’t be a lot of points scored as two of the best defenses in the conference square off. Desert Vista forced the Tigers into 18 turnovers and held their shooters to under 30 percent from the field.
Senior point guard Tatum Brimley led Desert Vista with 19 points and freshman guard Dominique Phillips was high scorer for Millennium with 12 points.
The action shifts to Grand Canyon University in west Phoenix for Friday’s semifinals.