The No. 2 Salpointe Catholic Lancers fought until the very end in a heartbreaking 70-62 loss to the top-ranked reigning champions of Seton Catholic on Saturday afternoon. While the results of the game were not what the Lancers would’ve liked, what they were able to accomplish under Head Coach Joseph Luevano this season as things got tough are a testament to the work ethic of the team and the type of players within the program.
“We’ve had talent the last three or four years I’ve been here as an assistant, but this team put together the mental toughness that you needed to get here… I don’t know if anyone thought we were gonna be here, but their work and their fight brought us here,” Luevano said.
Salpointe came out of the gate strong, jumping out to an 8-5 lead with just under 5:40 remaining after sophomore Bria Medina got the steal and passed the ball off to senior Madeline Namanny for the basket. Seton Catholic didn’t stay quiet long, as junior Lexi McNabb hit a three to give the Sentinels a 10-8 lead with just around three minutes remaining in the first. McNabb closed out the first with a steal, followed up with a three from senior Jamie Gillian to put Seton Catholic on top 15-13.
Seton Catholic was able to grind away to a 26-18 lead with around 3:20 remaining in the 2nd before senior Jaya Nelson was able to ignite the Lancers, making great use of the glass to get the basket. Junior Kylee Callahan hit a huge three to help close the gap, but Seton Catholic countered with a three of its own from sophomore Amelie Cartagena to take a 29-25 lead at the half.
Namanny opened the second half up with a bucket to bring the game within two, but Seton Catholic got on another hot streak. McNabb hit a three before senior Amanda Barcello followed it up with a steal and a bucket to put the Sentinels back on top 34-27. Cartagena drilled another one from behind the arc, and just two and a half minutes into the third quarter the Lancers found themselves trailing by ten.
Salpointe was able to get back into a rhythm towards the end of the third quarter led by Nelson and Namanny to cut Seton Catholic’s lead to 46-42 with eight minutes of play remaining.
The Sentinels started off the fourth quarter with more fast-paced play to take a 52-46 lead with 5:18 left, forcing Salpointe to call a timeout. Once again, the Lancers brought it within two with a steal and a bucket from Nelson with just around four minutes remaining.
“The kids I have, they have an incredible amount of fight,” Luevano said.
However, Seton Catholic was able jump back out and hang on to a four point lead until there was just under two minutes remaining, at which point the Sentinels were able to pull away with it after a lot of back and forth fouls and go one to win the 4A State Championship title, defeating Salpointe 70-62.
“Our zones, it’s something we don’t run that often but something we’ve gone to a couple times. It’s the reason we wanted Mesquite, we worked on it the last couple of days, but we had a couple miscommunications that left them open for threes that really hurt us, and we payed attention and Seton hit those threes, that was the painful part,” Luevano said.
“They’re very well coached, very fundamentally sound. I mean, honestly, we said going in, ‘They’re really similar to us. They’re all good, they can all score and can have a different leading scorer every night, and they can hit contested shots,'” Seton Catholic Head Coach Karen Self said.
Salpointe has a lot to look forward to in the off season, as a large number of their players will return next season. The Lancers, which feature a roster of girls who all have the ability to play hard and hit tough shots, are poised to be a force to be reckoned with in 4A next year once again.
“I know I’m supposed to just appreciate this type of season and be fortunate that we’re here, but I can’t lie, it hurts a lot to come so close and know we were just a couple possessions away. I think if anything it’s going to really, really motivate us and inject a lot of energy into the program,” Luevano said.
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07