Winter season begins with Pusch Ridge splitting basketball doubleheader

Molly Garnand (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)


2020 is in our past but the path we walk on is paved by its memory. Cancellations, delays, teams taking to social media to find opponents and seasons lost for all, especially for the seniors. We need to forget 2020 and but we also need to remember it because the games we play and watch are meaningless when compared to the sick and the growing death rates.

The winter season typically begins during Thanksgiving week but that date was moved to Jan. 5 and then once again to Jan. 18 before suffering a cancellation only to be revived a few days later and here we are. The games we play and watch have no bearing on the sorrows of society as a whole but they can help us heal, if only for a few moments. It’s who we are.

Some districts are still canceling their seasons and some are in a holding pattern but some are moving forward under a new set of rules designed to keep the athletes and everyone else associated with the games safe. Mask wearing, physical distancing and fewer fans. If that is what it takes to secure a season then so be it.

There were five basketball games played on Monday, Jan. 18 in Arizona but over 100 teams took to the courts on Tuesday including the girls and boys of Gilbert Christian and Pusch Ridge in Oro Valley. The 5:30 tip off for the girl’s game signaled the opening of winter sports in the Tucson area and no one really knows what tomorrow may bring. History tells us to recognize your seniors now and the seniors of the visiting teams before that opportunity is gone.

Vienna Elliott is Sean Elliott’s niece. (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)


Last winter wasn’t too kind to either team with Gilbert Christian finishing with a 10-8 record in power-ranking games and Pusch Ridge recording a 6-13 mark. The No. 30 ranking was uncharted territory for the Lions and the Knights were state champions only six seasons ago but both teams were young with only four seniors between them and youth still dominates both rosters this year.

The Lions only have one senior on their roster in Sydney Soto so it’s still a team in progress under legendary coach Lonnie Tvrdy. Tvrdy has multiple state championships to his name, an incredible 125-9 run between 2005 and 2008 that produced four straight titles. He knows what it take to get there and he has the building blocks in younger players such as sophomores Molly Garnand and Vienna Elliott.

Lonnie Tvrdy had a very brief retirement after last season but he is back with a promising team. (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)

The Lions took a 10-3 lead on Gilbert Christian after one and a 19-11 lead at the half and Elliott cleaned up the boards and Garnand was almost unstoppable, scoring 14 of her game-high 17 points in the half. The Knights started chipping away and Garnand was held scoreless in the third and Gilbert Christian went on a 7-0 run over the last four minutes f the quarter to take a 24-23 lead. Katelynn Gross hit a bucket and Kristine Ho followed with a 3-pointer. Kenzie Drager was fouled on a late 3-point attempt and she made two free throws for the lead entering the fourth quarter.

The teams traded baskets until Landyn Lovelady scored with 5:04 left to give the Knights a 28-27 lead and it was a lead that would stand the rest of the way with Drager putting the game away with two free throws with 3.5 seconds left for the 36-30 victory.

Garnand scored her 17 points, Elliott added 5 and Soto had 4. Bethaina Stubbs and Sierra Gifford also scored. For Gilbert Christian, Drager scored 11, Faith Jones scored 6, Gwyneth Finkbeiner scored 5, Ho scored 5, Tieya Crank scored 4, Gross scored 3 and Lovelady added a bucket.

Gilbert Christian (1-0) will host San Tan Foothills (0-0) on Friday and Pusch Ridge (0-1) will host Show Low (0-1) on Saturday.


Alex Manning (4) & Albert Wilson III (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson)


Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014, he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017, a 2019 AZ Education News award winner and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. He was the first in Arizona to write about high school beach volleyball and high school girls wrestling. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Andy was named an Honorary Flowing Wells Caballero in 2019 and he is a member of the Amphi COVID-19 Blue Ribbon Committee. Contact Andy Morales at amoralesmytucson@yahoo.com

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