Flowing Wells coach Michael Perkins is closer to leading his program back to a state championship, if not this year perhaps the next couple of years.
Senior guard MiLinda Arguellez will graduate and head to Texas A&M International, a significant loss for Perkins, but three sophomores with varied skills will return for the next two seasons.
Point guard Leamsi Acuña, forward Navine Mallon and post player Sydney Lomeli-Capen each played a significant role along with Arguellez in Flowing Wells’ 59-45 win over visiting Canyon View in the opening round game of the 5A state playoffs Tuesday night.
“You look at those three girls (Acuña, Mallon and Lomeli-Capen) and you have a solid playmaking point guard, a very good rebounding forward and a good presence at the post,” Perkins said. “That’s a very good nucleus right there.”
.@LadyCabsBBall coach Michael Perkins comments on his team’s win tonight over Canyon View which sets up a 5A quarterfinal game at Cactus Shadows on Friday night. #asthssports pic.twitter.com/xQOLklAiqJ
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) March 10, 2021
Amid the countless state championship banners of various sports in the old gym at Flowing Wells, a neighborhood school that opened in 1954, is one of the 2007-08 team that went 33-1.
That team had the city’s player of the year Abyee Maracigan, who went on to stellar careers at Pima College and Idaho State, and Perkins earned coach of the year honors after starting 88-11 in his first three years at Flowing Wells.
The program has experienced its ebbs and flows under Perkins, who is 270-188 now in his 16th year as head coach, and it appears the tide is riding high again. Flowing Wells is 33-11 in the last two seasons after going through a stretch of five straight losing seasons.
Following Todd Holthaus’ departure to be an assistant under Joan Bonvicini at Arizona in 2005, Perkins took over at Flowing Wells and went as far as the state semifinals in three straight seasons.
Flowing Wells returned to the state championship game in 2012-13 and lost to Scottsdale Saguaro 49-38.
Perkins can make his first trip back to the state semifinals since then with a win at No. 4 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows on Friday night. Flowing Wells, the No. 5 seed, is 13-3 and Cactus Shadows is 15-3.
“We just want to continue to keep growing, continue to keep playing,” said Perkins, who referenced the ability to get this far despite the challenges presented to avoid COVID-19 at home, at school, in practice and in the games.
“That’s the great thing about being here at Flowing Wells, we’re just going to keep playing,” Perkins said. “The kids love playing ball and look forward to playing the next game.
“We’ve been saying that since Day One, during this whole time. The kids just love playing basketball. We keep making decisions, making good choices so that we can get to the next game. We want to keep playing. We just love playing basketball.”
.@LadyCabsBBall senior guard MiLinda Arguellez had 15 of her 20 points in the second half and had an important blocked shot late to help propel FWHS to a 59-45 win over Canyon View in a 5A state playoff game. The Cabs next play at Cactus Shadows in a quarterfinal game Friday. pic.twitter.com/sGecM2sWsV
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) March 10, 2021
That love is evident in the play of Arguellez, one of the most intense players to come out of Tucson. She will not refrain from shouting as loud as she can in celebration or when she has to make a point to a teammate who requires direction on the court.
Her blocked shot with almost 1 minute left and Canyon View threatening to cut the lead to six points was a snapshot of the game. The block held back the Jaguars’ charge as they failed to score again while Arguellez and fellow senior Cheyanne Yanez closed out the last minute with four made free throws.
“Our aggressiveness on defense is always going to go through and our offense is going to come,” said Arguellez, who had 15 of her 20 points in the second half.
Acuña embodied that aggressive style defensively on the ball on top of the perimeter. When in possession, she was not denied going to the hoop or pulling up for a 3-pointer.
The perimeter defense on Canyon View’s leading scorer Caidyn Spickler was a significant factor. She finished with 17 but made only three field goals with most of her scoring at the free throw line (10 of 11). Ella Seymour added 14 points, including four 3-pointers, but Canyon View’s five other players mustered only a combined 14 points.
“I focused on defense because defense turns into offense,” Acuña said. “I tried to play with my teammates as much as I could especially with the post players (Mallon and Lomeli-Capen) because it was pretty much a post game, so we took advantage of our height and our strength.”
Acuña had nine of her 10 points in the second half. The contribution of Arguellez and Acuña in the second half helped Flowing Wells pull away after leading 27-26 at halftime.
Mallon, who had five games this season with at least 20 rebounds, and Lomeli-Capen provided the scoring help in the first half. Mallon scored nine of her 11 points and Lomeli-Capen had eight of her 12 before halftime.
“The kids played hard; they just stuck to the system,” Perkins said. “They did what we asked them to do and eventually we wore them down, imposed our will and got what we wanted to get in the second half.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
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.