Month That Was

Month That Was: Newsworthy local developments for October 2021

As a new feature this year, is taking a look back at the top local developments monthly. With October 2021 now in the books, we recount the important events of the 10th month of the year.



Ironwood Ridge golf state champs again (Andy Morales/

Ironwood Ridge entered the final round of the 2021 Division II State Championship on Oct. 26 up by only one stroke over Section I rival Salpointe but the Nighthawks put together an incredible final day that saw the program finish ahead of the Lancers 573 to 588. The 1-under-par second round of 283, and the 15-stroke victory, helped the Nighthawks win their third state title in a row at the Omni Tucson National. Ironwood Ridge because the first team from Southern Arizona to win three titles in a row and only Central (1965-1967), Chaparral (1999-2002), Cactus Shadows (2016-2018) and numerous Xavier teams recorded state championship streaks of three or more in a row in the state. Xavier did it three times with championship streaks of 8, 12 and 16 in its history. The team members coached by Doug Krautz and their finishes in the state tournament: (6th) Raina Ports (+1), (t9th) Celia Schrecker (+2), (t9th) Zoe Newell (+2), (14) Hannah Ports (+5) and (21st) Makenna Brown (+10).


FC Tucson graphic

FC Tucson’s playoff dreams finally turned into a reality following a 4-2 win Oct. 30 at Kino North Stadium over the Richmond Kickers. Making the playoffs was like a fantasy for the club at the end of June, when they were 3-6-1 and had just parted ways with former coach John Galas. After the win over Richmond, the Men In Black clinched the fourth-seed in the USL League One heading into the postseason with an 11-10-7 record with 40 points. They are the first FC Tucson team to make it to the USL League One playoffs. “What a night for the community, what a night for our fans. It’s certainly very emotional for me,” said head coach Jon Pearlman, who replaced Galas on an interim basis before becoming the permanent coach last month. “I was given the opportunity and I’m just continuing to be grateful that we can continue to play for our fans-in front of our fans. I believe in this team. Once we went on a run, I believed this was a playoff-level team. We put ourselves in great position. We relinquished that position (with some late-season setbacks), but ultimately, Richmond’s a good matchup for us.”


Pima women’s soccer team (Pima photo)

Former Ironwood Ridge standout Alyssa Kopach scored two match-winning goals Oct. 30 to help send Pima to the NJCAA Division II National Tournament as the champion of NJCAA Region I, Division II for the first time since 2015. Kopach scored the winner in a 2-0 victory over Mesa in the championship final in the 20th minute on an assist from former Catalina Foothills standout Caitlyn Maher. Former Cienega freshman Delaney Buntin scored in the 66th minute to close out the match. Kopach scored a golden goal in a 1-0 victory over Scottsdale in double overtime to send the Aztecs to the final against Mesa.


Salpointe’s Makenzie McRee (Andy Morales/
Ironwood Ridge’s Brasen Briones (Andy Morales/

Salpointe senior Mackenzie McRee picked up her second individual state title on Oct. 26 thanks to a 3-under 138 to hold off Makenzie Cooper of Canyon View (140) and Marley Moncada of Cienega (140). McRee won the 2018 state title as a freshman. Cooper and Moncada are also seniors and they were followed by another senior in Salpointe standout Susie Gietl (141) and Desert Edge junior Evan Heinz (141). Ironwood Ridge sophomore Brasen Briones put together an incredible 8-under 138 to take the boys state championship. Briones is the first champion from the Tucson area since 2016 and the sophomore will be part a large contingent of golfers competing for the top sport next year with only three seniors finishing in the top ten.


Adia Barnes and husband Salvo Coppa (Andy Morales/

An extremely long 606 days separated the last time Arizona’s fans could enter McKale Center to when the Wildcats beat Eastern New Mexico 84-25 in an exhibition on Oct. 28. So much happened in between that last game against Cal on Senior Day on March 1, 2020 (lost by the Wildcats in an upset) to when Adia Barnes’ team won the tip as the 5,948 filed in on Thursday. COVID-19 … Barnes giving birth to a daughter (who turned 1 on Sept. 15) … Aari McDonald’s last season with no fans in the stands because of the pandemic … a historical and magical run to the national championship game … Sam Thomas delighting everyone announcing she will return for a fifth season … Cate Reese adding to the elation saying she will take advantage of the extra year of eligibility and play two more seasons for Barnes. McKale’s fans also had their first glimpse of Taylor Chavez in an Arizona uniform. The Surprise Valley Vista High School graduate transferred from Pac-12 rival Oregon during the off-season. She joined two other newcomers from Power 5 schools — Ariyah Copeland of Alabama and Koi Love of Vanderbilt. Aaronette Vonleh, a freshman from Portland, was in the first wave of reserves showing she came to Tucson meaning business. Although it was an exhibition — the regular-season opener is Nov. 9 against Cal State-Northridge at McKale Center — the evening still carried a lot of meaning because of the anticipation of Barnes’ return to McKale with her program one of the best in the nation.


Lovieanne Jung (Arizona Athletics photo)

Former Arizona Softball player Lovieanne Jung was inducted into the National Softball Hall of Fame on Oct. 30 in Greensboro, N.C. Jung was one of nine inductees in the 2020 class. Jung, an Olympic Gold and Silver Medalist with Team USA in 2004 and 2008, a two-time Pan American Games Gold Medalist, and a two-time WBSC World Championship Gold Medalist was inducted into the Hall of Fame for her achievements as a fast pitch player. Jung played with the United States Women’s National Team for eight years and is a member of the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame. During her career at Arizona, Jung etched her name throughout the Arizona record books. Jung sits at first in career slugging percentage (.839) and tenth in career batting average (.409) and is also scattered throughout Arizona’s single season records. In 2003, Jung was the individual NCAA champion in home runs per game (.40), home runs (25), runs batted in per game (1.25), runs batted in (79), slugging percentage (1.022), total bases (182).


Bryanna Coté

Tucsonan Bryanna Coté lost Oct. 31 in the finals of the 2021 Professional Women’s Bowling Association Tour Championship at Reno, Nev., but the Canyon del Oro grad earned Player of the Year honors for the first time in her career. Shannon Pluhowsky of Dayton, Ohio, captured her second major title, and first since 2006, in a dominating performance against Coté. She won 244-178 to claim the final major of the 2021 PWBA Tour season. Pluhowsky earned $50,000 for the victory, and Coté collected $25,000 for her runner-up finish. The stepladder finals of the Tour Championship were broadcast live from the National Bowling Stadium on CBS Sports Network. Coté’s runner-up finish also secured her spot at the top of the season-long points list. The 35-year-old right-hander collected her second career PWBA Tour title in January at the PWBA ITRC Classic, and she added three runner-up finishes in her six championship-round appearances during the season. “I had talked to my husband about it, and coming into Reno, we never even thought player of the year was on the table,” Coté said. “I knew the points were very close, especially with two regular events and a major to go, and things could shift around pretty easily. You can’t count out those ahead of you, though, because they’re there for a reason. All I could do was just bowl and try to bowl great. When I realized I was getting closer and put myself in position to be player of the year, I just stayed the course and tried to stay focused. If it was meant to be, it was meant to be.”


Arizona’s Will Plummer had his best game as a Wildcat against USC (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona ended October with its losing streak ongoing at 20 games after a 41-34 loss at USC on Oct. 30. It was Arizona’s best game of the season – maybe the last two seasons given the circumstances of the last 1 ½ seasons. Credit Will Plummer and a dose of fill-in QB Jemarye Joiner, who created some offense early to help Arizona get started. But for the second consecutive week – although this time UA was behind unlike last week when it was ahead – Arizona had a chance to win … but didn’t. “We’re not a team that’s into moral victories,” Arizona coach Jedd Fisch said on his postgame radio show, referring to the message he told the team after the game. “We’re not a program that’s going to be into it. (But) I am proud of the way we competed.”


Rebekah Quiroz said yes (Quiroz video)

Her dream came true in its truest sense. Pima coach Rebekah Quiroz, a Flowing Wells graduate who played at Arizona, said yes to a marriage proposal on Oct. 31 at what she considers hallowed grounds — Hillenbrand Stadium. Jesse Moreno got on one knee and showed the engagement ring after Quiroz posed for a photo near home plate following Pima’s exhibition game with Arizona. He popped the question and Quiroz said yes. They embraced with her iconic coach Mike Candrea looking on. “All I could think was, ‘Oh my God, this is a dream come true to be proposed to at my favorite place in the world in front of my family, my team, Coach Candrea, Arizona’s staff and team and in front of the best fans in the world,” Quiroz mentioned.


Bennedict Mathurin during the dunk competition (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona basketball’s 2021-22 season unofficially began Oct. 2 with the annual First Watch Red-Blue game in front of a packed crowd in McKale Center, marking the first basketball in game in McKale with fans since March 7, 2020. The night opened with Arizona’s Adaptive Athletics wheelchair basketball team holding its own Red-Blue game prior to the Arizona Men’s Basketball team taking the court. Following the wheelchair basketball game and grand introductions of the players, four Wildcats – Christian Koloko, Bennedict Mathurin, Dalen Terry, and Azoulas Tubelis – competed in the dunk contest. Terry won the title with a perfect score of 120, dunking over Jordan Mains and a member of Terry’s family for his first dunk followed by a 360-degree dunk with an assist from Justin Kier in the stands. The Blue team won, 53-39, with three Wildcats scoring in double digits. Kim Aiken Jr., the transfer from Eastern Washington, led the team with 20 points, going 8-for-10 from the field and 4-for-4 from the three with four rebounds. Tubelis had 14 points, going 7-for-7 with seven rebounds and two assists. Mathurin scored 16 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 3-for-4 from the free throw line. Koloko finished with 10 points, four rebounds, and four blocks.


Jake Cioe, who was a main part of the 2020 Salpointe squad that brought home a state championship, announced on Oct. 2 that he will continue his basketball career as a walk-on for San Francisco. The Dons compete in the West Coast Conference. Cioe averaged 6.9 points a game for the Lancers in his senior year along with along with 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He has worked out with former Salpointe teammates Majok Deng (Pepperdine) and Evan Nelson (Harvard).

— Former Sahuaro and San Francisco standout Nate Renfro signed an Exhibit 10 deal on Oct. 2 with the San Antonio Spurs and he joined the team for training camp. Renfro played for the Austin Spurs last year and he averaged 7.8 points and 5.8 rebounds a game for the San Antonio summer league team. He has started this season in Austin.

— Desert View senior RB Serge Gboweiah was the APS Digital Frog & Firkin Player of the Week on Oct. 4 for his performance in a 46-28 win over host Marana in a game pitting unbeaten teams. Gboweiah (pronounced BO-way) gained 315 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns, including scoring runs of 25 and 56 yards in the victory that improved Desert View to 4-0 for the first time since 2016. He also earned an Ed Doherty Award Nomination Medallion to be present when the state’s player of the year is announced in Phoenix in December.

Ryan Maddox (Maddox photo)

— Fresno (Calif.) Clovis North standout Class of 2023 pitcher Ryan Maddox announced on Oct. 4 she has committed to Arizona’s softball program, now coached by Wildcat legend Caitlin Lowe. Maddox is the first high-level recruit to commit to Lowe’s program since Lowe took over for the retired Mike Candrea in June. “I’m so down for the Lowe era!!!” Maddox declared in a tweet. “It’s a dream come true to announce that I have committed to play for Arizona. Thank you to my coaches and trainers who have helped me achieve this dream!”

— FC Tucson removed the “interim head coach” tag from Jon Pearlman and made him the permanent coach Oct. 8. He also serves as the technical director for FC Tucson. “I always wanted to serve this badge and this organization. I’m grateful for the opportunity that I had to come back here,” Pearlman said. “It helped me be a better coach and a better servant to the entire group of people that work here.”

— Sabino sophomore quarterback Cameron Hackworth was the APS Digital/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week on Oct. 11 for his performance in a 27-16 win over Pusch Ridge in a battle of two of the top 3A South teams. Hackworth accounted for all four of Sabino’s touchdowns in the game. He completed 17 of 21 passes for 160 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, and he rushed for 72 yards on 12 rushes with two touchdowns.

— Former Sabino standout Preston Clifford announced his transfer on Oct. 10 to play for Grand Canyon after spending two years at Washington State and a season with Pima College. The 2019 Southern Arizona Player of the Year also played for the Mankato MoonDogs this past summer. Clifford played third base in the ACCAC Division I All-Star Game in early October representing the Aztecs.

— On Oct. 12, new Arizona head coach Tommy Lloyd was joined by sophomores Bennedict Mathurin and Azuolas Tubelis at the Pac-12 headquarters for the conference’s annual Media Day, and prior to the event, the preseason All Pac-12 honors were released by the conference, with the Wildcats picked to finish tied for fourth in the league while Mathurin garnered first-team accolades and Tubelis was on the second team.

— Perhaps it’s because the coaches believe Arizona has a significant void to replace in departed Pac-12 Player of the Year Aari McDonald, but whatever he reason, the Wildcats were selected to finish fifth in Pac-12 play this season during the conference’s Media Day on Oct. 12. Arizona was picked to finish behind (in order) Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and Oregon State. Stanford, the defending NCAA champion that beat Arizona in the title game, had 11 first-place votes and Oregon had one.

Arizona signee Lauren Rumel of Catalina Foothills (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com_

— Catalina Foothills senior Lauren Rumel (6-foot-2) surpassed 1,000 career kills during a 3-2 loss at Ironwood Ridge. Rumel is now one of 77 athletes in the rally scoring era to reach that milestone in the state of Arizona.

— The team with the potent running game and stifling defense — normal characteristics of the No. 1 5A team in the state, Desert View — took control of the game from the start Oct. 15 at Jaguar Stadium. Eighth-ranked Salpointe Catholic was that commanding presence in a 48-0 statement victory, showing upstart Desert View it still has that big-game moxie about them. “Our respect to Desert View, they play a lot of Tucson teams, but playing Phoenix teams prepares you for a lot of things,” said Salpointe senior tailback Anthony Wilhite, who finished with 137 yards on 19 carries with four touchdowns. “We prepared our last two games. We played big Phoenix teams, a couple of dogfights. We came out with the momentum and left it all in the field tonight.” Salpointe lost to Scottsdale Saguaro (ranked No. 4 in 5A) and Phoenix Pinnacle (No. 12 in 6A) in consecutive weeks before the anticipated showdown with Desert View, which tried to match its best start at 6-0 in school history. It was the first meeting ever between Salpointe and Desert View.

— Canadian combo guard Lemyah Hylton, one of the top recruits in the Class of 2022 who narrowed her choices to Arizona, Alabama and Maryland, verbally committed on Oct. 16 to join the Wildcats. Arizona coach Adia Barnes first offered a scholarship to Hylton, who is 5-foot-11 and versatile on offense and defense, in 2019 after the Wildcats made their run to the WNIT championship. Hylton, rated a four-star prospect by ESPN, attends Southwest Academy in London, Ontario. She was born in Mississauga, Ontario, close to where Arizona senior guard Shaina Pellington was raised in Toronto.

— Salpointe’s girls and boys cross country teams won the prestigious John Gleeson Lancer Cross Country Invitational on Oct. 16 at Rolling Hills. Kylie Wild of Salpointe finished first in 18:06.3 to lead the Lancers to the team victory. Logan Marek of Ironwood Ridge topped all others in the course in 15:46.7. Salpointe had three finishers in the top 10 — Michael Urbanski in fifth at 16:25.1, John Harris in sixth at 16:26.2 and Diego Delgado in ninth at 16:31.9.

— Former Sabino soccer standout Kaitlyn Bassett was named ACCAC D-II Offensive Player of the Week for Pima on Oct. 16. Bassett scored a goal and had an assist in a 4-0 shutout at Paradise Valley.

— Marana junior QB Elijah Joplin completed 33 of 50 pass attempts for 398 yards with five TDs in a 36-35 win over Sunnyside on Oct. 15 to earn the APS Digital/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week honors. The victory pushed the Tigers to 5-1 on the year after the mild upset with No. 12 Marana beating No. 10 Sunnyside (4-2).

— Marana first-year coach Phillip Steward was named the Arizona Cardinals High School Coach of the Week on Oct. 19 for his team’s dramatic comeback win over Sunnyside. Marana, ranked No. 10 in the latest 5A power ratings, was down by three touchdowns against Sunnyside with less than 7 minutes remaining and pulled out the last-second 36-35 victory.

— Marana junior receiver Sam Brown and Eloy Santa Cruz Valley senior running back Ricardo Alaniz increased the amount of Southern Arizona players receiving Ed Doherty Award Nomination Medallions to five with their performances in Week 9 recognized by the Grand Canyon State Gridiron Club on Oct. 19. Brown joined teammate Elijah Joplin, a junior quarterback, as nominees for the Ed Doherty Award, presented to the state’s player of the year following the season at the Ed Doherty Award Luncheon on Dec. 18. Brown had 14 receptions for 178 yards in the Tigers’ stirring 36-35 comeback win over Sunnyside. Alaniz, who has established himself as one of the top running backs in the state, delivered his fourth 200-yard or more rushing effort of the season with 241 yards on on 24 carries and two touchdowns in the Dust Devils’ 28-17 win over Sequoia Pathway.

Julius Holt (Andy Morales/

— The Tucson Youth Football & Spirit Federation held its annual award banquet Oct. 17. President Julius Holt announced he is resigning from his position after his long-standing affiliation with TYFSF. Esteemed referee Kirby Bollnow was inducted into the Tucson Youth Football Hall of Fame. Arizona receiver Stanley Berryhill III, a former TYFSF player, was the keynote speaker. The city championship games at Tucson High School are now known as the Mike McCraren City Championships in honor of the former vice president of the TYFSF who was involved in a fatal automobile accident returning from Colorado, where he saw his son Brees, a former TYFSF and Salpointe standout lineman, play for Fort Lewis College.

Francesca Green, who has been on the Arizona Track & Field staff for over a decade, was promoted to associate head coach on Oct. 20 for the upcoming season. “My Arizona journey started in 2004 with coach Fred Harvey, and through it all I don’t know if I can thank him enough,” Green said. “He has been more than a head coach to me, he has been a mentor and a very dear friend and I am honored to continue on this journey with him. I also would like to personally thank Dave Heeke, Erika Barnes, Krystal Swindlehurst, James Francis and Arizona Athletics for their continued support of our program. I am very blessed and beyond humbled for this opportunity and I am looking forward to this new and exciting chapter with our amazing Track & Field staff and student-athletes.”

— The Associated Press released its 2021-22 preseason poll on Oct. 20 with Arizona at No. 22 following its national championship appearance last season. Arizona has now appeared in 35 consecutive AP Top 25 polls, by far a program record, dating to the 2019-20 season. The previous record was 19 achieved two different times — from the 1997-98 to 1998-99 seasons and in the 1999-2000 season. The Wildcats were one of five Pac-12 schools in the top 25 with reigning national champion Stanford leading the pack at third.

— In a battle of two of the most talented teams in Southern Arizona on Oct. 20, No. 2 Canyon del Oro beat No. 3 Salpointe 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 27-25) at home to capture the 4A Kino championship and the automatic playoff berth that comes with the title. It was the first region championship for Dorados dating to 2016 when the Dorados split with the Lancers but finished the regular season with a better conference record to earn the tiebreaker. CDO swept the two regular-season matches with the Lancers this season.

— It was announced Oct. 24 that the 18th Annual MLK Basketball Classic is set to return to McKale Center in January after it was canceled last season because of COVID-19 protocol. Seven games will place at McKale. The Tucson version of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Basketball Classic is the longest continually running event in Arizona. This season, the MLK Classic will be held on Mon., Jan. 17 beginning at 10 a.m.

— The Tucson Roadrunners fans left Tucson Convention Center happy on Oct. 23 after their home opener against the Texas Stars, winning 4-0. Tucson split the opening two games of the season against the Stockton Heat. It was the first game in front of fans at the TCC in two seasons after COVID-19 protocol prevented that from happening last season. The victory against Texas came in three parts: Ben McCartney’s hat-trick and Tucson’s exceptional power play and penalty-killing efforts.

Giselle Juarez (Juarez photo)

— Former Arizona State pitcher Giselle Juarez, who transferred to Oklahoma and led the Sooners to the 2021 Women’s College World Series title, was hired Oct. 25 to help the pitching staff at Pima. Selected the WCWS Most Outstanding Player, Juarez will assist Pima pitching coach Nicki Johnson by working on the mental awareness and visual perception of the pitchers. “Giselle brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team I could only dream about,” Pima softball coach Rebekah Quiroz was quoted as saying by Pima. “Any school in the country at any level would be lucky to have her and we will utilize her in all aspects of the game for our hitters, pitchers and mental enhancement.”

— Empire senior RB/LB Jake Lambert rushed for 129 yards on 23 carries with a TD, and he had 17 tackles, five for loss with two sacks in a 50-19 win over Douglas on Oct. 22, earning him the APS Digital/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week honor.

— Former Southern Arizona soccer standouts Mari Acosta (Sahuarita), Angelina Amparano (Salpointe), Nayeli Vidal (Sahuaro) and Kaitlyn Bassett (Sabino) earned All-ACCAC honors for Pima on Oct. 25. Acosta brought home first-team honors.

— Tanque Verde finished rated the No. 16 team in 2A according to the AIA’s power ratings, but two region champions ranked below Jay Dobyns’ Hawks bumped them from the 16-team state playoff field. No. 20 Trivium Prep (5-4) won the 2A Hassaympa title and No. 22 Red Mesa (4-2) captured the 2A San Juan championship. Tanque Verde can take some pride in achieving the first winning season and most wins in program history (since 2007) with a 6-3 record. In his two seasons with the once-moribund program, Dobyns, a former Sahuaro and Arizona standout, is 9-3. He took over the Hawks when they were on a 15-game losing streak.

— St. David’s football team reached the 1A state semifinals with a 69-46 win over visiting Bagdad in a quarterfinal game Oct. 29. Benson and Willcox earned berths in the 2A state playoffs and Pusch Ridge and Sabino became Southern Arizona representatives in the 3A state tournament. Pusch Ridge and Sabino were tied with Thatcher for the 3A South title but the Lions won the tie-breaker with a higher power rating.

Aydalis Felix (Rincon/UHS), Karla Soto (Nogales) and Kaylee Moseley (Marana) earned All-ACCAC honors on Oct. 31 playing volleyball for Pima. In addition, Felix was named Libero of the Year.


Vanessa Candito (Candito photo)

— Empire pitcher/infielder Vanessa Candito to Regis University on Oct. 2.

— Mountain View wrestler Austin Scott to Oregon State on Oct. 4.

— Tucson infielder/pitcher Benji Cazares to Pima on Oct. 5.

— Former Sahuarita pitcher Treyjen Meza, now at Cochise College, to New Mexico State on Oct. 6.

— Sahuarita infielder Kayliana Cash to Grambling on Oct. 11.

— Amphi softball player Maliyah Espinoza to Adams State on Oct. 12.

— Sabino track and field athlete Eva Bruce to Colorado on Oct. 16.

— Former Sabino baseball player Drew Calloway to Arizona on Oct. 18.

— Salpointe volleyball player Jalynn Ransom to Pima on Oct. 20.

Jalynn Ransom, sister of former Salpointe standout Lathan Ransom, is headed to Pima (Andy Morales/

— Former Salpointe and Pima infielder Romeo Ballesteros to New Mexico State on Oct. 24.

— Salpointe golfer Marley Moncada to New Mexico State on Oct. 26.

— Sahuarita infielder Nathan Huie to Arkansas on Oct. 26.

— Canyon del Oro infielder Isabella Porter to Regis on Oct. 27.

— Salpointe pitcher Robert Lopez to Pima on Oct. 27.

— Catalina Foothills tennis player Emily Flowers to Xavier on Oct. 29.



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MARCH 2021

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APRIL 2021

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MAY 2021

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JUNE 2021

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JULY 2021

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Click on the photos to access the top local developments of September 2021

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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.

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