Sahuaro earned its 41st straight victory at home dating to the 2017-18 season with its 62-56 win Friday night over Flagstaff in a 4A state semifinal game.
Star forward Alyssa Brown, who had a game-high 28 points, is one of four seniors who finished their careers at home with a 47-2 record.
The third-seeded Cougars (17-1) next play at No. 2 Salpointe (18-1) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. for the right to play in the state championship game.
Sahuaro is trying to reach that far for the second straight season. The Cougars lost to Seton Catholic last year in the championship.
Salpointe last reached the title game in the 2002-03 season when it lost to Gilbert Highland.
“It’s remarkable our senior class has not lost at home since their freshman year,” Sahuaro coach Steve Botkin said. “I wish we had one more home but we’ll be at Salpointe.”
The Cougars beat the Lancers 65-55 on Feb. 23 before losing at Salpointe 61-31 on March 4.
“We’ll come in with a new attitude and hopefully have some fresh legs and be able to have a good competitive game against them this time,” Botkin said.
Sahuaro was challenged throughout its game with Flagstaff as the Cougars trailed 32-27 at halftime before outscoring the Eagles 22-13 in the third quarter.
“We knew that they were going to be super athletic,” Botkin said, “and they were, my goodness. They just got out and ran and ran and ran. We played at that pace early and had 11 turnovers by halftime.
“We had to slow it down because otherwise they were going to run us out. We’re a much better halfcourt offensive team than we are a let’s-sprint-down-the-court kind of team. We slowed the ball down a little bit, we started running our halfcourt sets, and we started getting really good looks. That was the difference.”
Arizona Girls Basketball Career Scoring Leaders
|1||Julie Brase||Catalina Foothills||1994-1998||2,913|
|3||Kayla Pedersen||Red Mountain||2003-2007||2,611|
|4||Christina Wirth||Seton Catholic||2001-2005||2,550|
|6||Ashley Wirtzberger||Yuma Catholic/Gila Bend||2006-2010||2,505|
|8||Nicole Powell||Mountain Pointe||1996-2000||2,478|
|10||Olivia Snyder||Green Fields||2009-2013||2,382|
Brown also had seven rebounds and five steals to go with her 28 points, which increases her career total to 2,651 points, second-most in state history.
Fellow seniors Lilly Watson and Lucky Franke were also instrumental in the win over Flagstaff. Watson contributed 10 points and eight rebounds. Franke had nine points, six assists and five steals.
4A: No. 2 Salpointe 54, Glendale Deer Valley 45
Salpointe will host Sahuaro in the much-anticipated semifinal after the Lancers were able to withstand Deer Valley in the quarterfinal victory at home.
Jaya Nelson, a senior who is 37-3 in home games dating to her freshman season in 2017-18, finished with 17 points against Deer Valley.
The Lancers (18-1) have won 14 straight games at home. Their last loss was against Sahuaro last season on Jan. 10, 2020.
“In the last three or four years when Sahuaro and Salpointe have gone head to head, for the most part Sahuaro has has come out on top and been our nemesis,” Salpointe first-year coach Joseph Luevano said.
“Now it’s sort of fitting that in order for us to advance, we have to battle that giant again. We know that Sahuaro is incredibly tough, led by their three seniors, especially Alyssa Brown.”
Nelson’s teammates, including senior Madeline Namanny and juniors Tessa Hastings and Kylee Callahan helped keep Deer Valley at bay after the Skyhawks rallied into Salpointe’s double-digit leads.
Namanny, who had 16 rebounds, hit two important jumpers to end Deer Valley runs. Hastings had 13 points and Callahan 11.
“Deer Valley has several really good athletic guards that could hang with us in terms of athleticism and speed and they kind of created this chaos and we did a good job at times of controlling the game,” Luevano said. “We had several instances of falling into a trap of making bad decisions, turning the ball over and taking bad shots.
“The term survive and advance was true to home today. We survived and advanced but it was a crazy, wild game.”
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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.