Sahuaro coach Steve Botkin had much more on his mind Wednesday night than preparing his team for visiting Phoenix Greenway in a 4A state playoffs first round game.
He was concerned about multiple player injuries and family issues involving three players.
“I’m just always concerned,” Botkin said with a laugh.
Senior twins Lourdes and Susan Heslep went to Mexico for three days because of a death in the family and did not return until Tuesday night. The father of another player suffered a stroke this week. Milaya Leon played with a very sore right wrist the coaches feared was broken at first.
Despite these concerns, Sahuaro rolled to a 64-28 rout of Greenway with sophomore guard Lucky Franke (game-high 24 points with four assists and two steals) nearly outscoring the Demons on her own. She also had a recent injury scare, hurting her foot in the last game against Catalina Foothills.
On top of all that, sophomore standout forward Alyssa Brown suffered two early fouls by the second quarter requiring her to sit most of that quarter until halftime.
Sahuaro sophomore Lucky Franke led the Cougars with 24 points in the rout over Greenway. She talks about her performance and her team's next challenge at home against Pueblo on Saturday in the 4A quarterfinals. #azpreps365 pic.twitter.com/8PXcL2tMq6
“That’s what we talked about was the complete team win,” Botkin said. “I know Alyssa is a big factor for us and we want her on the court.
“But when she is in foul trouble or needs rest, we have some kids who can really step and tonight was a great example of that. … Lucky’s coming off a foot injury and has been limited a little in practice. We’ve been hoping she would be full speed. She came out and was full speed today.”
Sahuaro advances to the 4A quarterfinals with a 64-28 win over Greenway. Cougars likely will play Pueblo at Sahuaro at 7. pic.twitter.com/KPTgzBf69p
Sahuaro set the tone from the start, not allowing Greenway to score in the first five minutes of the game. By that point, the Cougars built a 10-0 lead and were never threatened thereafter.
The No. 4 seed in the 4A tournament, Sahuaro improved to 24-3 overall with a 15-0 home record.
Next up Saturday night (7 p.m.) at Sahuaro is a Pueblo team somehow seeded No. 12 in the tournament despite a 25-4 record. The Warriors won the play-in game for the tournament last week, a 59-47 win over visiting Peoria, and they dominated No. 5 seed Desert Edge 48-26 on Wednesday night.
“We know that they’re very physical and they’re not going to back down,” Franke said of Pueblo, which has 13 games of holding opponents under 40 points this season.
Summer Fox had 22 points to lead the Warriors against Desert Edge and Getsemani Cazares added 11.
“They’re physical; they’re just as hungry as we are and they have the same goal that we do,” said Brown, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds against Greenway.
Botkin echoed the thoughts of many in Tucson who do not like the idea of two teams from the city playing each other so early in the tournament, eliminating the chance for them to advance deep.
Lucky Franke's 3-pointer late in the first half gives Sahuaro a 43-16 lead at halftime over Phoenix Greenway in the 4A state playoffs first round game. Franke has 18 points, Alyssa Brown 12 and Luly Heslep 8. Cougars totally in command. #AZPreps365 pic.twitter.com/5S4tBVs2oX
Realistically, given Pueblo’s record and talent level, the Warriors, Sahuaro and No. 6 Salpointe should each have a chance to reach the semifinals. Rio Rico, the No. 10 seed, was eliminated at No. 7 Flagstaff with a 67-54 loss on Wednesday.
Salpointe must travel to No. 3 Mesquite on Saturday night.
The possibility exists that only one Tucson team will make it to the semifinals when realistically it should be three.
“You kind of hope two Tucson teams don’t play each other,” Botkin said. “We’d like to play them later if that’s possible, but we’re just happy to advance and I know they are, too.
“We know they’re going to be tough. They’re well-coached. They shoot the ball well. They have a great point guard in Summer Fox. They distribute the ball, run the floor and press … we have to play our best basketball for sure to hopefully come out on top. It will be tough. It will be a good game.”
Gotta love it … Some of Sahuaro's students showing school spirit … maybe too much of it? … pic.twitter.com/ona5WmJ5LL
Botkin, also the athletic director at Sahuaro, knows a large crowd will be on hand with it being a weekend game with two Tucson teams involved. That will make for a festive and fun atmosphere for a playoff game.
Two of the best players the city has produced in recent years — Fox and Brown — will be on display with an emerging star in Franke hoping to be ready for the pressure involved.
“We’re very locked in together; have a great chemistry together,” Franke said of Sahuaro, which has won five consecutive games.