It would be hard to find a bigger contrast in outcomes than the results from the girls’ big-school state basketball championships. In Division I, Hamilton High won its first-ever state title. In Division II, Seton Catholic brought home its eighth.
There was also a significant difference in the way each title was won and lost.
Hamilton used its size and physicality inside the paint to wear down Mesquite High School, dominating on the glass to carry it to a 56-46 victory. The Huskies outscored Mesquite in the paint, 38-20, and finished with a stunning 42-22 rebounding advantage.
But it was a physical approach to the game that may have cost Cactus Shadows High School the D-II crown. Cactus Shadows led 23-20 at the half, but it was an avalanche of fouls that buried the Falcons as Seton pushed through to a 49-40 victory.
Cactus Shadows collected 32 fouls, which sent the Sentinels to the free-throw line 35 times – which resulted in a 23-point gift. By the time the game wrapped up, five Cactus Shadows players had fouled out.
This is the fifth state title for Seton in the last seven years and its current head coach, Karen Self, has guided the program into a dozen championship games over the last 21 years, and brought home all eight of the school’s titles.
This was expected from the beginning to be a special year for the Sentinels. They returned all five starters from last year’s team that finished runner-up and were anchored by a 6’3″ junior forward named LeeAnne Wirth, and her twin sister, Jenn, a 6’2″ guard. Together they accounted for 22 points a game during the season.
LeeAnne led the way against Cactus Shadows with 14 points and eight rebounds. Jenn wasn’t far off the pace, contributing 12 points and eight rebounds.
Hamilton had it’s own 6’3″ post player who led the No. 3-seeded Huskies to the D-I title. Maya Banks scored 18 points and pulled down 14 rebounds.
Mesquite was the top-seed in the playoffs, but were coming into the championship game without title-game experience. This was their first venture this far in the playoffs. Hamilton had already been tested, losing to St. Mary’s High School in the 2012 championship game – but still turned the ball over 18 times.
Sophomore point guard Shaylee Gonzales led Mesquite with 17 points, three assists, and four steals. But the team as a whole shot just 35 percent from the field. The Huskies, getting most of their opportunities in the paint from point-blank range, were able to shoot 49 percent.
This may have been Hamilton’s first D-I girls’ hoops title, but things look promising for adding another as soon as next season. The Huskies will have four of their five starters back on the floor next year.