As a new feature, AllSportsTucson.com is taking a look back at the top local developments monthly. With February 2021 now in the books, we recount the important events of the second month of the year.
MOST NEWSWORTHY DEVELOPMENTS
It was announced Feb. 23 that the Arizona Bowl in conjunction with organizers Paul Cunningham, a Tucson city councilman, and former coach Jeff Scurran have put the wheels in motion for the Southern Arizona High School Football All-Star Showcase game to be played May 8. When the high school football season was cut short for local public schools in December, talk started to surface about the seniors getting one last chance to play before the school year ended. Those seniors will get that chance. The game, featuring 100 seniors from Southern Arizona high schools, is scheduled to be held at Tucson High School after a week of practices that will include one day of former Arizona players talking to the group about the differences of playing in high school and college. The coaches will be legendary Dennis Bene, who won a state title at Salpointe, and Nemer Hassey, who built Cienega into a winning program.
Former Arizona standout and College Football Hall of Famer Tedy Bruschi was named the program’s Senior Advisor to head coach Jedd Fisch on Feb. 1. As Senior Advisor to the Head Football Coach, Bruschi will serve as a member of the executive football management team while serving as a consultant with the entire football staff. He will also assist Fisch in alumni relations, fundraising, social justice initiatives and student-athlete development off the field. “I am very excited to re-establish my connection to the Arizona Football program,” Bruschi said in a release. “Coach Fisch, and his vision for the program, is the main reason for my new level of involvement. I look forward to assisting Coach Fisch and the program in any way I can as we develop the next generations of Wildcats who are purposeful, resilient, and original. Bear Down!”
Arizona announced on Feb. 12 that the late Al Fleming, a member of Snowden’s first recruiting class in 1972 — the Kiddie Korps — and Tucson High great Ernie McCray, who set the school’s scoring record of 46 points in a 1960 game at Bear Down Gym, were going to be inducted into the Ring of Honor at halftime of the Feb. 27 game in the McKale Center against Washington. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in place, the induction was a virtual ceremony. The families of both inductees will be invited to the McKale Center for a formal in-person induction ceremony at a later date.
Sean Miller, the 13th head coach in Arizona’s history, became the third to achieve 300 victories at the school. Arizona upset No. 17 USC 81-72 on Feb. 20 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles to give Miller his milestone victory. The Wildcats won for the first time since 2017 in Los Angeles against USC. His record at Arizona in his 12th season was 300-108 after the victory. “I’m just really excited for our team and coaching staff,” he said downplaying the 300-win mark. “It hasn’t been easy, nothing’s been easy. We’ve been in really tough games in which I thought we’ve played hard and played well.”
With four team and individual championships won in their previous two tournaments, Arizona’s men’s golf team earned a rank of No. 1 on Feb. 24. the Wildcats will ride their hot streak into the Cabo Collegiate at TPC San Antonio. The event, which tees off on March 1, boasts a 16-team field that features seven other programs in the GolfStat Top 25 rankings with half of the top-10 ranked teams.
Cienega hired Justin Argraves on Feb. 5 to be is new head football coach after serving as Tucson’s for 10 seasons. “Hard decision but I think it’s the best for my family,” said Argraves. “I’m really excited. Got a good feel when I met with them. High expectations and big shoes to fill.” Argraves replaced Pat Nugent, who shifted to the new varsity program at Mica Mountain, which is also in the Vail School District.
Arizona diver Delaney Schnell, a Tucson High grad, was crowned Pac-12 champion of the 1-meter dive on Feb. 24 and then broke the school and conference record in the platform-dive prelims on Feb. 26 at Arizona’s facility. Schnell won the 1-meter event by a landslide as she put up a score of 343.45, nearly 30 more points than the runner-up who scored 313.90. Her record score in the platform dive was 383.35. She would go on to win the platform final with a score of 364.50. The previous Pac-12 record for the platform dive was held by Eline Eggers from ASU when she scored 345.60 total points at the 2011 Pac-12 Championships.
Sahuaro star forward Alyssa Brown scored 47 points in an 85-55 win at Catalina Foothills on Feb. 18 to break her own school record of 45 points. Brown made 16 of 25 shots from the field, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range and also produced 15 rebounds against Catalina Foothills. “I was just playing with the rhythm of the game and I didn’t know until after I was pulled out,” Brown mentioned about learning about breaking her record. Brown had 45 points in a win over Casa Grande last season on Feb. 6, 2020. The school record before that of 42 points was held by her sister, former standout Sydney Harden, who produced that amount against Palo Verde in the 2014-15 season. Brown also moved into the top 10 of career scorers in the state’s history with 2,453 points as of Feb. 28. She ranked No. 8 on that list.
Pima Community College’s indoor teams — women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s volleyball — had its entire slate of games in the month of February canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. The men’s and women’s basketball teams are slated to begin their season March 2 at Central Arizona. The start of the volleyball schedule is March 10 at home against Arizona Western. All three teams have eight regular-season games scheduled before the region playoffs are to begin in early April.
Kevin Sutherland chipped in for the only birdie of the final round on No. 16 and had a tap-in for another on the next hole, shooting a 4-under 69 to overtake Mike Weir in the Colorguard Classic on Feb. 28 at Tucson National. Sutherland trailed by two to start the day and was down four after Weir birdied the par-5 eighth in blustery conditions. Sutherland cut Weir’s lead in half with two birdies in his first three holes to start on the back nine and chipped in from short right of the 183-yard, par-3 16th. Sutherland tapped in on 17 after putting through the fringe on the par 5 and just missed another birdie on the difficult 18th to close out his second victory in his last three PGA Tour Champions starts and fifth overall. He finished at 15 under, two ahead of Weir, three up on Steve Stricker and Scott Parel. The event helped raise awareness of colorectal cancer and the importance of early detection through screening. Up to 200 fans per day were allowed and no tickets were available to the general public because of COVID-19. The event organizers worked with the PGA and Pima County Health Department to come up with plan for sponsors and a limited number of colorectal cancer survivors to be on hand. Arizona alum Jim Furyk and Arizona State alum Phil Mickelson took part.
OTHER TOP DEVELOPMENTS
— Sahuarita hired former Marana and Mountain View assistant Jake Price on Feb. 8 to be its next football coach, replacing Don Watt, who resigned after three years leading that program. A student at Northwestern State at Natchitoches, La., Price relocated to Tucson and attended Arizona to live closer to his mom’s family that resided in Douglas. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Education at Arizona in 2004 and he has coached as an assistant at the high school level since. “Gary Minor (head coach at Ironwood Ridge at the time) gave me a shot to be a volunteer freshman offensive line coach when I was attending Arizona,” Price said with a laugh. “I just fell in love with it.” Price has coached under the likes of Minor, who made Ironwood Ridge a winning program from scratch after it opened in 2001, Andy Litten at Marana and Matt Johnson at Mountain View.
— Former Buena High School and Pima College standout Darius Kelly, who went on to a career at Syracuse, resigned from his head coaching job at Catalina Foothills in early February. Kelly was 4-8 in his brief two-year stint with Catalina Foothills, which hired him after legendary coach Jeff Scurran resigned following the 2018 season. Kelly resigned to take over the Sonoran Sidewinders head coaching position. His offensive coordinator at Catalina Foothills, former Arizona receiver Devin Veal, left with him to coach the Sidewinders.
— St. Augustine Catholic High School senior guard Thomas Reyna established himself as one of the top five scorers in the state averaging 26.9 points a game in February. His career scoring total reached 1,729 points in the month. His brother Andrew Reyna finished his career with 1,948 career points in 2018. Andrew’s total ranks ninth in the state’s history. Thomas’ team went into March 10-5 overall and 3-2 in the 2A South.
— Fisch and his staff landed another Class of 2021 in-state recruit on Feb. 1 when Ammon Allen, a 6-foot-2, 202-pound outside linebacker out of Gilbert Highland High School committed to the Wildcats.
— Arizona women’s tennis coach Ryan Stotland signed blue-chip American recruit Midori Castillo Meza to a National Letter of Intent on Feb. 1. Castillo Meza will join the Wildcats in the fall. Castillo Meza is currently ranked 23rd in the country and has been as high as No. 3. She is the highest-ranked American recruit in Stotland’s tenure at Arizona, and the first blue chip recruit since Lacey Smyth in 2010 when Stotland was the assistant coach.
— Arizona outside hitter Sofia Maldonado Diaz was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week twice on Feb. 2 and Feb. 22. Maldonado Diaz had a breakout weekend in her first career matches at McKale Center, averaging 5.00 kills/set on .356 hitting in two matches against one of the best defensive teams in the country, No. 11 Washington. Maldonado Diaz had 25 kills on just 41 swings, hitting an amazing .439. She added 11 digs, three blocks and an ace in the match. Her 25 kills were the most by an Arizona freshman since Tiffany Owens’ 25 kills vs. Arizona State (Nov. 7, 2007). She was the first Arizona outside hitter to record 25 or more kills on .400 hitting since Owens’ 32 kills on at .426 hitting percentage as a senior at Oregon State on Oct. 8, 2010. She also became the first Wildcat freshman to have a 20-plus-kill double-double since Madi Kingdon in 2011. Maldonado Diaz claimed her second Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honor after a monster weekend during Arizona’s two-match sweep of Oregon State Feb. 19-20, averaging a phenomenal 5.71 kills per set on .307 hitting in the two matches. She added 16 digs and a pair of blocks on the weekend as well.
— Hawai’i at Hilo standout Bree Olson, a Pusch Ridge grad who transferred from Pima College, was named Vulcan Athlete of the Week on Feb. 3. Olson totaled 16 points and 20 rebounds as the Vulcans swept Chaminade on Oahu. Olson collected a career-high 12 rebounds in one game to go with 10 points for her first double-double in a Vulcan uniform. Olson sat out last season with a knee injury.
— National signing day for football players on Feb. 3 was highlighted by nine Cienega football players signing with their college programs. The list included RB/S C.J. Flores (NAU), LB/RB Josiah Flores (Fort Lewis), RB Gabe Levy (Mary), WR/DB Charles Hamm III (Jamestown), DT Hunter Schlagel (Western New Mexico), LB Isaiah Webb (Western New Mexico), SS Sebastian Felix (Drake), C Andrew Husfelt (Washburn) and QB Ryan Swoger (South Dakota State). Click on this to observe the numerous signings covered by our Andy Morales from that day.
— Arizona football spring signees on Feb. 3 included four transfers who attended high school in Arizona: RB Drake Anderson (Chandler/Northwestern), S Gunner Maldonado (Chandler/Northwestern), DE Jason Harris (Gilbert Higley/Colorado) and QB Gunner Cruz (Gilbert Casteel/Washington State).
— Arizona’s volleyball team on Feb. 5 accomplished something it had not done since 2005, and did so in impressive, dominant fashion — the Wildcats defeated Stanford at home, sweeping the defending national champion and seventh-ranked Cardinal (25-17, 25-16, 25-14). Arizona became the first team to defeat Stanford in straight sets while holding the Cardinal to fewer than 20 points in every set since rally scoring was introduced in NCAA volleyball in 2001. It was the first straight-set win over Stanford since Oct. 26, 2000. Arizona swept Stanford with a four-set victory on Feb. 6 (27-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-13). It is Arizona’s first sweep against the Cardinal since 2005.
— Tucson High midfielders/defenders Savannah Gutierrez, Alexus Mendez and Sophia Duran held a signing ceremony on Feb. 6 to play for Pima Community College.
— After becoming the winningest player in Arizona history the weekend of Feb. 6-7, senior captain Alejandro Reguant was named Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time of his career on Feb. 17. Reguant went 2-0 in singles that week to break two school records for overall and spring wins. In the first match on Feb. 14 against New Mexico State, he won 6-1, 6-3 at the No. 1 spot in the lineup and followed that up with a 6-0, 6-3 win at the No. 2 spot in the second match.
— Rob Gronkowski played in his sixth Super Bowl on Feb. 7, and he earned his fourth championship — both top accomplishments among former Arizona Wildcats. The tight end who lettered at Arizona in 2008 and 2009 caught two touchdown passes in Tampa Bay’s 31-9 win over Kansas City in Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. He led the Buccaneers with six receptions for 67 yards.
— Arizona volleyball sophomore libero Kamaile Hiapo was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Feb. 8. Hiapo received the award for the first time in her career, but this marks the third time in the last six weeks (dating back to last season) that Hiapo has received weekly conference recognition after she received two of the final three Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors in 2019.
— The Feb. 8 game between Marana and Sahuaro was stopped at halftime by the principals of both schools after it was learned the Cougars may have been exposed to a recent opposing player who tested positive for COVID-19. Sahuaro was ahead 33-10 at halftime when the game was called. The outcome was deemed official by the Arizona Interscholastic Association. Steve Botkin, the Cougars’ coach and athletic director, heard from the AIA that the result of the game would stand as long as Marana coach Tory Perez agreed to the outcome. Perez accepted the outcome. If Perez refused the halftime score as the result, the game would have to be rescheduled.
— Salpointe’s Jaya Nelson surpassed 1,000 points in her career on Feb. 8 when the Lancers topped Pueblo. Nelson committed to play for Alderson Broaddus University in November and signed with the West Virginia institution in late February.
— Former Sahuaro and Arizona standout pitcher Gina Snyder and former Arizona outfielder Mandie Perez were selected on Feb. 9 to be members of Team Florida for the Valencia Cup to be played in Barcelona from May 8-15. The team will be competing against Mexico, the Netherlands, Czech Republic and Spain. The team will also participate in youth clinics in Barcelona. Snyder is currently the coach of Bradenton Slice of the Florida Gulf Coast League and Perez is a member of the California Commotion of the National Pro Fastpitch League.
— Sunnyside wrestling star Roman Bravo-Young of Penn State went 4-0 in the month of February to improve to 6-0. He is ranked No. 3 nationally at 133 pounds entering the Big Ten Wrestling Championships March 6-7 at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State. Bravo-Young leads the Nittany Lions with 39 dual takedowns.
— Sunnyside midfielder Ari Loya signed with Cochise College on Feb. 11. Located in Douglas, the Apaches have former Douglas High School standouts Damariz Miranda, Yunise Murguía and Bri Guzman on the roster along with Nogales standouts Marlene Padilla and Maile Vasquez. Rio Rico’s Samantha Renteria, Sahuarita’s Mildred Long and Buena’s Astrid Galvez also signed on.
— Arizona All-American guard Aari McDonald continued to earn individual-honor recognition named to the Wooden Award Late-Season Top 20 on Feb. 1, the Ann Meyers Drysdale Top 10 Watch, the Naismith Midseason Watch List on Feb. 9 and the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year semifinalist on Feb. 23.
— McDonald paused when asked if Arizona’s 75-53 win on Feb. 14 over Washington was her last game at McKale Center what will she take from her experiences with the program. “I would say to not think about the bad, but when you do, just always take the positive and just grow from the experiences that you go through,” the senior All-American guard said. “Always have faith, honestly. Coming here, we were at the bottom of the pack. I mean, to see our growth to where we are right now, it’s crazy to me.” McDonald has made it known for a while to Adia Barnes she is leaving to the WNBA. Barnes is hoping she can lure Sam Thomas and Trinity Baptiste back for another season after the NCAA declared athletes will not lose a year of eligibility this season because of COVID-19 potentially impacting games.
— In the first NCAA tournament selection reveal on Feb. 15, Arizona was the No. 2 seed in Region 1 that included top-seed Connecticut. The Wildcats were the No. 8 team overall. Region 1 included No. 3 seed Baylor and No. 4 seed Tennessee.
— Chaminade freshman Emma Morris of Tanque Verde was named Pacific Health Silversword Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Feb. 8-14. According to a release, Morris scored 37 points and had seven rebounds in her three games against the nationally-ranked Sharks of Hawai’i Pacific University.
— Arizona senior Trevor Werbylo, a Salpointe grad, shot a 4-under 209 to take a piece of first place at The Prestige held at the Greg Norman Course at PGA West in California on Feb. 13-14. In doing so, Werbylo gave the Wildcats a share of first place along with North Carolina.
— Salpointe running back David Cordero announced Feb. 15 that he has signed with Ottawa University, an NAIA program based out of Surprise. Cordero, 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, rushed for 585 yards on 70 carries with three touchdowns in seven games with Salpointe in the fall.
— Arizona junior forward Cate Reese was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 15 for the third time in her career after averaging 18 points on 53 percent shooting from the field in three Arizona wins the week previously.
— Adia Barnes was named to the Naismith Coach of the Year Late-Season Watch on Feb. 17. Barnes was a finalist for the Naismith Coach of the Year Award last season.
— Arizona freshman Madison Conner, who played the first half of her season at Chandler AZ Compass Prep, and Alyssa Brown were both selected as McDonald All-American nominees on Feb. 18. Also nominated were former Sabino standouts Kiya Dorroh and Kamryn Doty, who were teammates of Conner with AZ Compass Prep. They did not make the final 48 who were selected All-Americans.
— Arizona fourth-year junior Hanah Bowen, Mike Candrea’s No. 3 pitcher, may have thrown her first career no-hitter for Arizona on Feb. 20 but she is no stranger to dominant pitching. “My goal was just to come out there and command each pitch and just stay strong and relaxed,” said Bowen, who at that point the last three years was 6-0 with a 1.37 ERA in 35 2/3 innings. Arizona has won all four of its season-opening games in the Hillenbrand Invitational, including Feb. 20 when Bowen’s no-hitter — the 94th in Arizona history — helped the Wildcats beat New Mexico 12-0 in five innings.
— Tucson products Devyn Netz and Carlie Scupin figured into Arizona’s 8-0 run-rule victory over Southern Utah on Feb. 21. Scupin of Tucson High belted her first home run with the Wildcats and Netz of Ironwood Ridge after a rough first inning in which she allowed an RBI double, she locked in and seemed to get strong as the game moved along. Netz did not finish the game but ended her day going four innings on 62 pitches with five strikeouts while giving up one run on three hits. Throughout her time in the circle, she was able to stay around 63-65 mph, topping at 66 on the radar gun. Scupin would finish the first two weeks of the season with four home runs.
— Arizona’s women’s basketball team was in position to claim its first outright regular-season Pac-12 title but Stanford captured the championship with a 62-48 win over the Wildcats at Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto, Calif., on Feb. 22. If the Wildcats won, they would have played for the title against Arizona State on Feb. 28.
— Salpointe junior standout Mackenzie McRee shot a 2-under-par 142 to win the Phoenix Metro Junior Championship held at the Aguila Golf Course in Laveen Village on Feb. 20-21. McRee held on to beat Hamilton standout Jennifer Seo by two strokes.
— Arizona freshman Azuolas Tubelis was named the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Week on Feb. 22. The talent from Lithuania averaged 17 points and 11.5 rebounds in UA’s split of the Los Angeles schools the previous week. He had 16 points and 15 rebounds in Arizona’s upset of USC on Feb. 20. He had 18 points against UCLA on Feb. 18.
— Arizona senior centerfielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 23 after an impressive performance at the plate in the Hillenbrand Invitational. Palomino-Cardoza reached base in 13 of her 17 plate appearances across the five games (.765 OBP), hitting .667 in 12 at-bats with a pair of home runs. She scored 11 of Arizona’s 45 runs during the Wildcats’ 5-0 start at the Hillenbrand Invitational. The Mission Viejo, Calif., native had a hit in every game of the weekend, including three multi-hit games.
— Former Catalina Foothills standout Gavin Cohen shot 20 birdies for Loyola Marymount at the Nick Watney Invitational at the Sunnyside Country Club located in Fresno (Feb. 7-9). Cohen won the individual title after a playoff victory on the 18th hole. Cohen turned around and won The Joust hosted by California Baptist (Feb. 22-23) at the Goose Creek Golf Club located in Mira Loma. He became the third golfer from Loyola Marymount to win back-to-back individual championships.
— Sabino senior guard Curtis Wyble came close to breaking the Southern Arizona record for most 3-pointers made in a game when he made 12 on Feb. 26 in a 79-37 win over visiting Empire. Wyble’s school-record total came two short of the Southern Arizona record of 14 made by Smiley Contreras of Pueblo against Buena on Nov. 29, 2000.
— Arizona hit five home runs, its most at spacious Hi Corbett Field, and compiled 15 hits in a 13-11 victory over Southeastern Louisiana on Feb. 26. The last time the Wildcats hit five home runs in a game was March 21, 2008 at USC in a 10-2 win. Dillon Baird tied a school record with three homers in that game. The Arizona record is seven home runs at Washington State on April 8, 2001, in a 17-14 loss.
— Arizona’s softball team started 10-0 for the 15th time in program history after rallying in the bottom of the eighth inning top Oregon State 3-2 on Feb. 28 in the final game of the Wildcat Invitational at Hillenbrand Stadium. The Wildcats extended their winning streak to 21 games dating to last season. They scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth for the walk-off win. Scupin tied the game with an RBI single to left and Bowen followed with a single through the right side that brought home the winning run.
— Arizona’s baseball team swept the four-game series from Southeastern Louisiana from Feb. 25-28. First baseman Branden Boissiere went 4-for-4 with four runs scored, one double, three RBI, and one walk in the final game. Boissiere finished the series hitting .667 with 10 runs, one double, two home runs, and seven RBIs.
A LOOK BACK
— Sahuarita outfielder/pitcher Andres Gonzalez to Sioux Falls on Feb. 2.
— Cienega linebacker Josiah Flores to Fort Lewis on Feb. 2.
— Empire football athlete Yani Brown to Arizona Christian on Feb. 3.
— Desert View linebacker Anton Jamero to Ripon College on Feb. 4.
— Sahuaro wide receiver/safety Damon Robledo to Concordia (Chicago) on Feb. 4.
— Tucson wide receiver/safety Daniel Becerra to Chadron (Neb.) State on Feb. 4.
— Walden Grove wrestler Sal Silva to Arizona Christian on Feb. 9.
— Desert View running back Jacob Ramirez to Lyon on Feb. 11.
— CDO cornerback Raife Anthony to Aurora on Feb. 15.
— Empire pitcher/designated hitter Braden Boisvert, presently at Seward County (Kan.) Community College, committed to Oregon State on Feb. 18.
— Sunnyside receiver Anthony Galvez committed to Simpson on Feb. 18.
— Former Salpointe standout Ryan Grabosch committed to New Mexico State on Feb. 22. Grabosch is currently a catcher for Central Arizona. Grabosch earned a spot on the NJCAA All-Academic Team in 2020.
— Cienega receiver Caleb Kidney to Western New Mexico on Feb. 25.
— Sabino right-hander Joey Parker de-committed to New Mexico State and changed his pledge to Cochise College on Feb. 25.
— Salpointe defensive end Brees McCraren, who was offered a preferred walk-on spot at Arizona, to Fort Lewis (Colo.) on Feb. 25.
— Marana volleyball player Dalia Haase to Embry-Riddle on Feb. 26.
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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.