Candice Gonzales needs to send a thank-you note to the Cactus Shadows High School girls’ basketball team. The Falcons’ upset win over Seton Catholic last Friday dropped Seton to fourth place in the azcentral sports’ Super 10 rankings and moved Coach Gonzales’ Mesquite High School team from second place to the top of the heap.
The loss was Seton’s first this season against an in-state opponent as the Sentinels have been unstoppable moving through their regular AIA schedule, scoring 1,253 points over 19 games and outscoring their opponents by an average 40 points a game. Their only other losses this season came during the Nike Tournament of Champions when they lost two of their four games, by five points against St. Francis High School from Georgia and by three against Centennial High from Las Vegas.
Ironically, the only loss for Mesquite (23-1) this season was to Seton, a 50-37 decision during the Highland Thanksgiving Tournament.
That makes it hard to understand why Seton fell to fourth place in the Super 10, which ranks all Arizona teams together regardless of conference, and why the team they beat by double digits is sitting at No. 1. Seton and Cactus Shadows both compete in the 4A Conference.
Another consideration that should have been factored into this week’s rankings: Seton, the defending 4A state champion, played Cactus Shadows without its leading scorer. Sarah Barcello missed the game while recovering from a concussion suffered a week ago in a game against Shadow Mountain High.
The junior guard averages 18 points a game, one of only two on the roster averaging in double figures. The other, senior guard Jen Wirth, averages 11 per game. Barcello also contributes seven rebounds, a couple of assists, and a couple steals each game. Her absence leaves a huge hole on both ends of the floor.
Without their do-everything guard in the game against Cactus Shadows, the Sentinels were a season-worst 22 percent from the field and just 60 percent at the free-throw line.
Cactus Shadows led from the opening tip-off, but early in the fourth quarter Seton was able to pull to within four points. But a disastrous 1-for-11 shooting display in the fourth quarter enabled the Falcons to pull away for good.
Caitlin Bickle, who tops all Falcon scorers with 17 points a game, exploded for 30 points to lead the offensive assault and boost Cactus Shadows’ record to 19-4. Two of those four losses also came against out-of-state teams in the Nike TOC.
Bickle, a 6-foot guard/small forward, shot a sizzling 67 percent (10-for-15) from the field against Seton. It was the second time this season that she has hit the 30-point plateau. She poured in 32 points in an 81-55 win over Cactus High at the beginning of December.
The upset of Seton propelled the Falcons from their eighth-place spot last week in the Super 10 rankings all the way up to No. 3 this week. Hamilton High, the defending 6A state champion, is 19-3 and sitting in second place.
The win over Seton meant more to Cactus Shadows than just a move up the standings ladder. It was a chance to avenge last year’s loss to Seton in the 4A state title game.
Based on the season’s results so far, it looks like both teams could find themselves facing off again in a couple of weeks to play for this year’s state title.