One of the youngest players on Sabino’s team — junior forward Jackson Campbell — was asked what his team’s record is heading into the new year.
His answer: “All I know is we have two losses.” He wants to learn more from those defeats than bask in the victories. Spoken like one of his 12 senior teammates.
Sabino coach Marty Roth, in his sixth year as the Sabercats’ head coach, has never featured such as a senior-dominated team. Then again, what coach at the high school or college level has had that kind of experience?
“It’s a unique situation,” Roth said after Sabino improved to 13-2 with an 89-65 win over CDO in the title game of the Sabino Boys Basketball Holiday Tournament. “I’ve never been in a situation where there’s been that many seniors.
“They’re a tight group. They’re able to stay in adversity and the heat of battle level-headed. They’re able to coach each other on the floor. Last year, we lost in the final four (of the 3A state playoffs) and two years before that, we were in elite eight, so I’ve got several guys who have been in big spots. They get the big picture and understand the value of working every single day and yet soon we may be back in that spot. They are hungry to get back there.”
.@sabinoboysbball coach Marty Roth has his team at 11-2 after capturing the Ssbino Boys Basketball Holiday Tournament championship. He talks about the importance of winning a midseason tournament and what it is like to coach senior catalysts Cesar Saenz and Pablo Gutierrez. pic.twitter.com/SocKj16OTa
Two of the top seniors on the team are guard Cesar Saenz and wing player Pablo Gutierrez, both of whom are garnering recruiting interest from junior college and NCAA Division II schools.
Saenz, 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, had 26 points in the win over the Dorados, 20 in the first half when the Sabercats established control with a 53-31 lead at halftime.
.@sabinoboysbball senior guard Cesar Saenz had a game-high 26 points, including 20 in the first half, to lead the Sabercats over CDO for the title of the Sabino Boys Basketball Holiday Tournament. pic.twitter.com/P9FLt1vUcb
“It’s all really mentality,” Saenz said of his strong start after persevering through a hard-fought 60-57 semifinal win over Sahuaro a couple of hours earlier. “Before this game, we had a really tough game, so going into the next game we already know that they are going to start punching us right in the face at the beginning of the game.
“So we had to have the mentality to play hard.”
Gutierrez, 6-4 and 190, who met with Phoenix College coaches on Friday at Sabino, finished with seven points but converging defenses on him allowed senior guard Nate Ridola to get open for good looks from 3-point range. Ridola nailed five shots from that range.
“We play together; that’s something we pride ourselves on,” Ridola said. “We’re at the halfway point so we still have the rest of our games. As far as we’re concerned we’re still 0-0.”
Jackson Campbell, a junior forward, had 15 points and seven rebounds for @sabinoboysbball in the Sabercats’ win over CDO in the title game of the Sabino Boys Basketball Holiday Tournament. pic.twitter.com/YQ4GHMmVKk
Campbell, a bull around the basket at 6-3 and 200, had 15 points and seven rebounds against CDO. He and forward Brock Jackson are the lone juniors on the team with 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Travis Reynolds being the youngest.
Campbell said of playing with Saenz and Gutierrez and the 10 other seniors: “It’s really cool. It gives us a lot of tools and I can learn a lot from them.”
Sabino next hosts Cienega on Jan. 7. CDO, which was led by 11 points each from senior forward Tyler Lerew and junior guard Luis Lopez, is 7-6 heading into its next game at Catalina Foothills on Jan. 8.
Results from yesterday’s games at the Sabino Boys Hoops Holiday Tournament:
Cibola 52, Gregory School 40
Amphi 53, Westwood 46
Cibola 52, Amphi 35
Flowing Wells 92, Palo Verde 77
Desert View 71, Catalina 51
Flowing Wells 80, Desert View 67
CDO 67, Kofa 58
Sabino 60, Sahuaro 57
Sabino 89, CDO 65
In the semifinal game between Sabino and Sahuaro, the Sabercats withstood 20 points in the second half from Kyle Hubbuch, a senior captain point guard with the Cougars.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.