Salpointe’s successful June mixing freshmen with veterans can pay dividends in February

Salpointe concluded its time together in June with a 28-3 record (Salpointe photo)

The month of June for Salpointe Catholic’s girls basketball program will impact its February next season when the Lancers challenge for a 4A state title.

They competed in 62 games in 34 days and the varsity went 28-3 winning three tournaments, two in Phoenix and one in Tucson.

Their time spent bonding (veterans mixed with freshmen and newcomers), including a 4-1 run in Flagstaff last week, will pay dividends for coach Joseph Luevano’s team as he enters his second season as head coach.

His rookie season ended with a state championship appearance against dynasty Seton Catholic, and the Lancers took Karen Self’s team to the last minute before losing 70-62.

Joseph Luevano addresses his team during the last day of the Flowing Wells Summer Basketball League (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“What we got most out of June was our team chemistry,” Luevano said after the Lancers’ last game in the Flowing Wells summer league on Wednesday night. “We’ve got a lot of people in new roles, getting more minutes. We lost 10 seniors last year, and four of them were contributors. We must replace those four. We have added four freshmen.

“So with new freshmen coming in and playing at the varsity level already right off the bat, and then having a lot of returning players with new roles and figuring those out, the month was very important for us.”

Gone from Salpointe’s 19-2 team of 2020-21 is captain Jaya Nelson, who averaged a team-best 14.9 points per game with 5.4 rebounds a game and is headed to play collegiately at Alderson Broaddus, an NCAA Division II program in West Virginia.

The team also lost Madeline Namanny (7.2 points and 7.4 rebounds a game) and Pima-bound Mireya Hernandez.

Salpointe point guard Bria Medina and shooting guard Kylee Callahan make up one of the best backcourts in the state (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

One of the best trios in the state returning are senior guard Kylee Callahan (12.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.6 steals per game), senior wing Tessa Hastings (9.8 points and 1.6 steals) and junior point guard Bria Medina (8.5 points and 4.0 steals).

“It’s been exciting to see the new pieces coming in as well as working with the old players that are stepping up and taking new spots since the seniors from last season moved on,” Hastings said. “It was really hard at first because there were a lot of different people and it was difficult for all of us with different commitments to try to work together and mold as a team.

“I felt like we did a really good job overcoming the fact that some people were missing this game, some people were missing this tournament … I feel like as a whole we ended up molding really well together even though we didn’t have as many practices together as we wanted or as many games together that we wanted.”

Salpointe’s overall talent level received a boost with the addition of freshmen forwards Hannah Williams and Taliyah Henderson, who figure to be starters or contribute plenty of minutes when the season starts in November.

Hannah Williams (10) and Taliyah Henderson are two budding prospects entering their freshman years at Salpointe (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Henderson, a 5-foot-11 wing from Vail, gained notoriety in 2018 as a budding track athlete bringing home two gold medals at the USA Track & Field Region 10 Junior Olympic Championships in Aurora, Colo., earning a time of 56.93 seconds in the 400-meter dash and a time of 2:23.20 in the 800 meters.

She holds the youth record in Arizona with that time in the 800 meters.

Henderson and Williams, another 5-foot-11 forward who is from Sahuarita, both showed the ability to dribble the ball upcourt against pressure and they were tenacious around the basket with shots and rebounds.

Luevano applied a unique defensive strategy putting each on the opposing point guard because of their athleticism and length, which proved to be productive for steals and transition buckets with guards releasing to the other end.

“They have a lot of knowledge on the court,” Callahan said. “I feel like their height will come into a big advantage for us. We got pretty lucky getting them on the team.”

The most important aspect of the addition of Henderson and Williams and two other freshmen to the varsity roster is the youngsters’ ability to mesh with the returners. No sense of entitlement exists with either group.

“It was a really cool month to get everybody integrated and familiar with each other,” Luevano said. “The four freshmen that we added, and there are two juniors that we added that weren’t on varsity last year, have all come together.

“They bought in and it was fun. It was fun to see that group together and just compete.”

The players will now compete in club basketball tournaments in July.

Senior Tessa Hastings is one of numerous Salpointe players who can bring the ball up the court (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Callahan, Hastings and Medina are part of TNT Blue 17U team that will travel to Chicago next week and California later this month. Henderson and Williams are members of AZ Supreme Hoops coached by former Sabino coaches Jaamal Rhodes and Jeremy Daniels that will be traveling the country this month as well.

Medina mentioned all the time put in during June with the Lancers and now embarking with her club team boils down to trying to get that state title the Lancers came so close to achieving last season.

“I’m just really excited,” Medina said. “We have to work really hard. We don’t have anything easy. Everyone’s going to come and give us their best game. We just have to continue to work hard. We can’t get a hot head. We have to just focus.”

Some more photos from Wednesday’s last day of the the Flowing Wells Summer Basketball League:

Kylee Callahan’s ability to shoot from the outside keeps defenders honest (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Kylee Callahan shows her versatility with the ability to score from inside or outside (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Bria Medina averaged 4.0 steals a game last season (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Hannah Williams is a budding Class of 2025 prospect who exerts energy on both sides of the court (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Taliyah Henderson is an accomplished track athlete in addition to a high-caliber basketball prospect entering her freshman season in 2021-22 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Tucson High standout Tamia Clardy (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Flowing Wells’ tenacious rebounder Navine Mallon (Class of 2023) (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Flowing Wells’ Leamsi Acuna, a budding Class of 2023 prospect at point guard (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Flowing Wells junior center Sydney Lomeli-Capen will again be a dominating presence inside in 2021-22 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Longtime Flowing Wells coach Michael Perkins directs his team (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Sunnyside coach Justin Delgado will enter his second season in 2021-22 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)


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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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