Basketball

Pueblo girls beat Cibola to advance to quarterfinals


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(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

(Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Division III Girl’s State Championship

Round 2: Saturday, Feb. 20 at Amphitheater
No. 6 Pueblo 59, No. 11 Cibola 29

Quarterfinals: Thursday, Feb. 25: Gila River Arena
No. 6 Pueblo vs. No. 3 South Mountain, 1:30 p.m.

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The Pueblo girls kept their dream season alive with a 59-29 win over Cibola Saturday night in the second round of the Division III state playoffs held at Amphitheater High School.

The game was in doubt early on with both teams remaining scoreless over the last 4:55 of the first quarter. The Warriors built a 12-7 lead to that point thanks to three deep shots but then both teams went cold and the drought wasn’t stopped until Ilyssa Galindo scored a bucket with 6:38 left in the second. Then the floodgates opened, but only for Pueblo.

The Warriors (24-4) led 25-11 at the half and 46-17 after the third. By then, the Warrior faithful sitting in the stands heard No. 3 South Mountain had defeated No. 14 Kingman 71-44 in the other half of the bracket and most were already making plans for the quarterfinal round to be played Thursday afternoon in Glendale.

First-year coach Anthony Gerg led the Raiders to a sectional title and a trip to the state playoffs. This was the ninth playoff trip in a row for Cibola (19-10) and the Raiders came out strong with a 65-46 win over No. 22 Nogales in the first round but the second round proved too much and the Warriors coasted to a 59-29 win.

Ismael Galindo is in his forth year with the Warriors and the win was the 60th in his career, easily the most successful coach since the school opened in 1956. Much of his success revolves around a strong cast of players including senior Danielle Orozco, junior Araceli Loya and a trio of sophomores including Alba Urena, Alicia Reyes and his daughter Ilyssa Galindo.

The Warriors have had standouts before, such as Angela Lopez, but never an entire team with one purpose, one goal. Lopez scored well over 1,000 points in her career (2006-2008) but Galindo is on pace to have three players (Loya, Reyes and Galindo) break the 1,000-point mark next year. But that is next year, this is now.

“Our Time.”

That is what’s printed on the front of the team’s warm up jerseys. The time is now.

South Mountain (22-8) has a superstar of it’s own in New Mexico State commit Najiyyah Pack. Pack has 2,051 career points and is averaging 26 points a game this year. At, 5-foot-10, Pack may cause some problems for the Warriors but the school motto is ” Sí, Se Puede.”

“Yes, We Can.”

“To be honest, we are out here to win games so we haven’t had a chance to get caught up in what this all means yet,” Loya said. “But we thank our fans everyday for supporting us. We are thankful for all of them.”

Pueblo will travel to the Gila River Arena on Thursday to take on South Mountain for a shot at the final four of high school basketball. As luck would have it, Thursday is the first day of Rodeo break. I wonder how many past and present Warriors will make the trip?

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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

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