Career Scoring Leaders
Alexis Cortez, Tucson (Sr.) 1,994
Sydney Harden, Sahuaro (Sr.) 1,371
Czarina Lorta, Nogales (Sr.) 908
Lexy Ram, Ironwood Ridge (Sr.) 830
Hannah Bjorgum, Desert Christian (Sr.) 781
Hailey Goley, Tanque Verde (Sr.) 774
Rachel Cummings, Tombstone (Sr.) 757
Reazsha Benjamin, Sahuaro (Sr.) 706
Araceli Loya, Pueblo (Jr.) 607
Elena Arriaga, Sahuaro (Jr.) 553
The Ironwood Ridge girls defeated Sahuaro 49-43 in overtime to open up divisional play on Tuesday night. The Nighthawks (5-2 overall, 1-0 in division) built several leads only to have the Cougars (5-2, 1-1) fight back in a game dictated by a slow tempo in the first three quarters. Really slow.
Ironwood Ridge led 8-5 after the first quarter and only 17-10 at the half despite having some the highest scoring players in Southern Arizona on the floor. Sahuaro seniors Sydney Harden has 1,371 career points and Reazsha Benjamin has 706. On the other side, Ironwood Ridge senior Lexy Ram has 830.
It was only a matter of time.
Both teams went scoreless for three minutes to start out the second half but Ironwood Ridge eventually went up 19-10. Natasha Villalta came up big and hit on six free throws to help Sahuaro cut the lead down to 19-17 but Ironwood Ridge sophomore Natalie Bartle scored two late buckets to put the Nighthawks up 26-19 after three.
Then everything broke loose.
Ram and Bartle took over and Ironwood Ridge took a 32-24 lead with 5:33 left in the game despite 10 points from Harden to that point. Benjamin started to catch fire and she led another comeback to cut the lead down to 32-30 with 3:40 left.
Benjamin hit on an old-fashioned 3-point play with 52.2 seconds left and the game was tied up 34-34. Bartle made two free throws to put the Nighthawks back up 36-34 with 38.1 seconds left but Elena Arriaga scored with 28.2 seconds left to make it 36-36.
Ironwood Ridge had two shots underneath in the final seconds but couldn’t convert and the game went to overtime. Harden had fouled out with 2:15 left in regulation so the Cougars had to go without her presence inside on offense and defense.
Still, after a Ram bucket to put Ironwood Ridge up 38-36 in overtime, Arriaga scored to tie it up again and then Villalta scored with 2:30 left to give Sahuaro a 40-38 lead. It was the first lead for the Cougars since Harden put them up 5-4 in the first quarter.
But Sahuaro went cold and missed on three shots in close after Bartle hit a 3-pointer to give the Nighthawks a 41-40 lead with 2:11 left in overtime.
Bartle scored five points and Ram added six as Ironwood Ridge outscored Sahuaro 11-3 down the stretch for the 49-43 win.
Bartle and Ram both scored 18 points while Harden and Benjamin led Sahuaro with 10 each. Villalta scored nine to keep Sahuaro in the game.
Sahuaro will host Marana (2-4, 0-1) on Friday while Ironwood Ridge travels to Sunnyside (6-1, 0-0) on Thursday.
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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AZPreps365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com