Who was on Sabino’s bench was almost as newsworthy as who was on the court at McKale Center, and the Sabercats had two Division I prospects playing against a Sahuaro team that entered the game unbeaten with the nation’s eighth-best scorer.
Sabino sophomore point guard Kam’Ren Rhodes, who is as good at her position as any player in the state, sat on the bench near assistant coach Jeremy Daniels and her dad Jaamal Rhodes, the Sabercats’ coach. Further down the bench not in uniform were contributors Kadie Healey and Riley Shepherd, both out with concussions.
The result was somewhat of a stunner with Sabino (16-4) winning 51-41, making Eastside rival Sahuaro’s record 18-1 while limiting Division I prospect Alyssa Brown to only 17 points in the MLK Classic game at McKale Center.
.@SabinoGirlsHoop Class of 2021 wing @dorroh_kiya had a game-high 18 points in the Sabercats’ 51-41 win. She drew the defensive assignment on Sahuaro’s Alyssa Brown, who came in averaging 30.9 points a game and finished with 17. pic.twitter.com/58ZjIQkOgz
“We drill into each other before each game, in practice, we need the toughness considering everybody’s out,” said junior guard Kamryn Doty, a Division I caliber player who exhibited Sabino’s grit diving after loose balls and playing scrappy, relentless defense.
“Everybody needs to step up and play a bigger role.”
The Sabercats’ most valuable player in this game was junior Kiya Dorroh, a Division I prospect since before her freshman season.
.@SabinoGirlsHoop have sophomore PG sensation @rhodes_kam4 out for the season with a knee injury and two others out with a concussion. The Sabercats showed toughness emblematic junior guard @kamryn_doty (a D1 prospect) in their win over previously unbeaten Sahuaro tonight. pic.twitter.com/WjtAcGdQFg
She drew the defensive assignment on Brown and stood her ground against the physical, strong and dominating talent. Brown could never find her rhythm.
“I was definitely looking forward to it; she’s a great player,” said Dorroh, who finished with a game-high 20 points. “She forced me to be focused the entire game, so I was glad to play against another person like my caliber. It forced me to get better. I enjoyed it quite a bit.”
The Sabercats defeated Sahuaro for the second consecutive year in the MLK Classic, which they hope will propel them to a strong finish to the regular season like last season.
.@SabinoGirlsHoop freshman guard Amelie Buffill-Gutierrez had eight big points in the Sabercats’ 51-41 win over previously unbeaten Sahuaro. She talks about the thrill of playing in McKale at such a young age. “Hopefully, I can be here one day,” she said. pic.twitter.com/vTxGRMQ1kl
An AIA eligibility ruling kept Sabino from its 3A state championship aspirations last season, a development that serves as motivation for a run to the title this season.
Calm and collected freshman guard Amelie Buffill-Gutierrez played significant minutes with the Sabercats shorthanded and she had eight points. She never seemed to be overwhelmed by the physical nature of the game and the intensity of two high-caliber teams going at it.
“When I was warming up, my heart was beating and I was super nervous,” Buffill-Gutierrez said. “When we get out here, it feels right.”
Of her experience at McKale Center, where she watched games growing up in Tucson, she said, “I love everyone here … It felt so good and hopefully I can be here one day.”
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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.