No. 7 Cienega won the 5A Southern Region Friday night with a 54-48 win at No. 17 Mountain View. The victory moved the Bobcats to 14-4 in power-ranking games and 6-2 in region play. The Mountain Lions are now 10-8 and an even 4-4.
No. 11 Sahuaro (12-6, 5-3) took second in the region and No. 10 Ironwood Ridge (12-6, 5-3) came in third based on conference play.
The 5A play-in tournament will take place on Thursday, Feb. 9. As it stands now, Cienega and No. 4 Marana should advance directly to the 5A tournament scheduled to start on Tuesday, Feb. 14.
No. 21 Flowing Wells should join Ironwood Ridge, Sahuaro and Mountain View in the play-in tournament.
Mountain View forward Jazzy Hughes led all scorers with 20 points and she sparked a 10-3 run to erase a 20-13 deficit in the second quarter. Hughes can play inside or on the arc, earning her attention from the college ranks including Pima.
“I’m excited we are in the playoffs for the first time in four years,” Hughes explained. “My senior year has been pretty eventful with a lot of ups and downs. We just need to play like we did at the beginning of the year and be more aggressive. We need to play hungry.”
The teams battled back and forth but Cienega went on to build a 47-34 lead with 5:20 left in the game thanks to the play of Cienega standout Lauren Green. Green finished with 14 points with seven of those coming in the final period.
The 6-foot junior has the skill-set and the body frame to attract college recruiters and the junior already has an offer from Long Beach in her pocket. The University of Arizona made a rare local visit and watched her play this past week.
“I’m very proud of myself for getting the attention but I’m hoping to improve on what I can do,” Green explained.
The Bobcats went 1-3 in a seven-day span two weeks ago, and the experience has caused the Bobcats to refocus.
“The year has been good but we had that rough patch,” Green added. “We need to continue to play hard and play like we are supposed to.”
Down 47-34, Hughes put her team on her back again and scored 11 points down the stretch but Cienega held on for the 54-48 win.
In 6A action, No. 5 Tucson will face No. 32 Cibola next Tuesday for the Southern Region championship. The Badgers are also looking to stay in the top eight to avoid the play-in bracket. No. 21 Rincon/University is hoping to stay put to make the play-in tournament.
No. 9 Canyon del Oro won the 4A Kino Region and the Dorados still have a chance at a top-eight finish to host a first-round game in the 16-team bracket. No. 4 Pueblo ran away with the Gila Region championship and the Warriors are looking at a super-ranking which means hosting two rounds of action.
No. 15 Rio Rico is on the edge.
In 3A play, No. 3 Pusch Ridge, No. 13 Tanque Verde and No. 16 Empire earned automatic playoff berths from the South Region.
The 2A playoffs are a bit trickier with the region champion earning a spot in the state playoffs and the second-place team will advance to the play-in bracket. That means No. 29 Desert Christian should advance to the play-in tournament. No. 19 Benson looks safe for an at-large berth.
No. 4 Immaculate Heart won the 1A South Region and No. 6 St. David will take the second automatic berth from the region. No. 5 The Gregory School is also going dancing and No. 14 Baboquivari might also be safe.
Cienega 54, Mountain View 48
CIE: 12-11-17-14: 54
MV: 6-15-13-14: 48
CIE: L. Green 14 (1-2); W. Lewis 12 (2-2) N. Mack 11 (5-8); L. Pinedo 6; M. Navid 4; A. Bailey 2; J. Hoover 2; M. Ebalei 1 (1-2); K. Bost 0 (0-2). 3-Pointers: L. Pinedo 2; W. Lewis 2; L. Green. 54 (9-16).
MV: J. Hughes 20 (4-7); Z. Urbina 8 (2-2); A. Villanueva 6; A. Patton 6; R. Hernandez 4 (0-2); K. Horn 2; J. Van Der Werf 0 (0-2). 3-Pointers: Z. Urbina 2; J. Hughes. 48 (6-13).
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 and on AZPreps365.com. Andy was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com