It’s beginning to look like this season could be the one to take Ismael Galindo and his Warriers all the way to the Promised Land.
For almost six years now, the head girls basketball coach at Pueblo Magnet High School in Tucson has steadily worked at getting the program from door mat to the penthouse. When Galindo took over the 4A program it had compiled a 19-58 record in the previous four years and was coming off consecutive five-win seasons.
Slowly, but with consistent progress, Galindo, who is called Izzy by his friends, the wins began to mount until the last three seasons when the Warriors went 22-9, 25-5, and 26-2. In 2015, Pueblo advanced to the state tournament for the first time in 20 years, but were upset by Prescott High in the first round. The next two seasons they returned to the tournament, advancing each time to the quarterfinals.
This year, as it is every season, the goal is to go all the way through the playoffs and bring back the first girls’ basketball state championship trophy to put in the trophy case in Fat Lever Gymnasium alongside the one the boys’ program won some 40 years ago.
Pueblo was playing in Division II during the 2014-15 season, but were dropped to D-III the next year and are playing now in 4A, the equivalent of D-III. That move has increased their odds for finally getting a chance to play for a state title.
This year’s team is 11-1, with its only loss at the hands of Gilbert’s Mesquite High School, which is the top-ranked team in the 5A Conference. Mesquite’s 80 points per game rank them among the top scoring teams in the country.
Pueblo, ranked No. 5 in 4A, lost that game by 20 points, but the 67 points the Warriors did score were the most that Mesquite has given up to any team this season.
That was just the third game on the schedule, too early to make any worthwhile assessments. And three games later, Pueblo beat the No. 2 team in 5A, Scottsdales’s Chaparral High, and then destroyed another 5A team, Poston Butte High School, 91-33.
Through the first 12 games, Pueblo is averaging 74 points a game. According to stats published by Andy Morales at AZPreps365, that makes the Warriors the fourth highest-scoring high school team in the nation.
And they do their scoring by committee. Without a super scorer on the roster, the Warriors depend on all five of their starters to contribute – and they do. Four players are currently averaging in double figures, with junior Summer Fox leading the way with 16.5 points per game.
The coach’s daughter, 5’5″ point guard Ilyssa Diamond Galindo, is averaging 11 points a game, followed by senior Alicia Reyes and sophomore Jasmine Belt with 10 points apiece.
Ilyssa Galindo began taking ownership of the offense early. As a sophomore, she was named by All-Sports Tucson as the D-III Player of the Year, the same year her father was Coach of the Year. And Reyes set a new state record that same year by making 17 three-point attempts in a single game, breaking a record that had been on the books for 21 years.
Both players are seniors now. This is their time.
And, concurrently, maybe it’s the Warriors’ time. That first state title looks to be within reach.