Month That Was

Month That Was: Newsworthy local developments for November 2021

As a new feature this year, is taking a look back at the top local developments monthly. With Novermber 2021 now in the books, we recount the important events of the 11th month of the year.



Pima men’s soccer celebrate a national title (Pima photo)

The 2021 Pima Aztecs men’s soccer team earned a national championship after winning an overtime thriller Nov. 20 at Wichita, Kan., against the CCBC Essex (Md.) Knights on penalty kicks by a score of 3-2. It was tied, 3-3 in penalty kicks when Juan Suarez (Desert View grad) saved the biggest shot of the season for his team. Pima found itself with an opportunity to win the match with a final goal scored. Salpointe grad Francisco Manzo, who scored the first goal earlier in the match, was up to the challenge. CCBC Essex’s goal keeper guessed right on the direction the ball was going. Manzo put it just far enough out of reach to hit the back left corner of the net, allowing the Aztecs to win the 2021 national championship. They also achieved a title in 2018 under coach David Cosgrove. Manzo was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Suarez and Ulysses Torres (Sunnyside) were named to the all-tournament team.


Pima women’s soccer achieved its first national title appearance (Pima photo)

The No. 4 Pima Community College women’s soccer team fell just short in its quest for the program’s first NJCAA Division II national championship on Nov. 20 in Wichita, Kan., losing to No. 1 Heartland (Ill.) Community College. The Aztecs (16-4-2) finished in a 2-2 draw in regulation and overtime but lost for 4-2 in penalty kicks. Pima missed its first two attempts while the Hawks converted on their first three. Sophomore Kortney Cahill (Cienega grad) and Seti Valencia (Sunnyside) made their shots. “I’m super proud of how the girls played. It was unfortunate to be up a goal and give that lead up because our defense has been really stellar this whole tournament,” Pima coach Kendra Veliz said. “I’m really proud of how the girls competed, it was the No. 1 seed (Heartland CC) and my assistant coach said we scored more goals on them than any other team. Two goals was a huge accomplishment. Both ends I’m really proud with how the team played.”


Salpointe head coach Wolfgang Weber has reached 700 career wins (Andy Morales/

Wolfgang Weber believes his first victory as a head coach came some 40 years ago at Amphitheater. The wins kept coming and the Hall of Fame coach picked up his first state championship in 1985 and that was followed by another in 1986. He was the first coach in Arizona to win back-to-back state championships. Actually, he was the first to win two titles. In all, Weber earned eight state titles with Salpointe with his latest coming last season. The 36 years between his first and latest championship is remarkable in itself but he walked off the pitch some eight months ago with 699 career wins. His beloved wife Nina passed away in 2013 and was able to lift up another trophy with another bunch of teenage boys. Still, how can a legend retire with 699 wins? 700 is a nice number and Weber added that to his ever-growing legend Nov. 30 against Sahuaro. “If Nina was still alive, I might have stayed home and did some traveling with her and that sort of thing,” Weber said. “They put me in the Hall of Fame here at Salpointe and then they put a book together with letters from 50 or 60 kids talking about the influence I had on them. In my mind, that’s really the main reason. A lot of my former players became All-Americans. This makes you proud, but then you look at other people like Brenden Griffin, a Superior Court judge. He asked me to speak at his ceremony when he was sworn in as the judge and I made jokes about how he hated to be on the bench, but now he loves the bench. That’s what really what drives you, helping people to move on and do what they want to do.”


Arizona first-year coach Jedd Fisch celebrates the Wildcats’ lone win all season (Arizona Athletics photo)

It was not a win over top-ranked Washington, a Pac-12 South championship victory over ASU or a last-second field goal toppling Oklahoma. It was a defensive struggle for Arizona against a California team without 24 players and five coaches because of COVID-19 protocol. That did not matter one bit as far as the Wildcats and Jedd Fisch were concerned. The. Streak. Was. Over. “I’m happy to get that monkey off our back,” Fisch told the Pac-12 Networks crew at Arizona Stadum. Michael Wiley’s 10-yard touchdown run with 2:17 remaining was the difference in Arizona ending its 20-game losing streak with a 10-3 win Nov. 6. “The feeling is hard to describe,” Fisch said of the locker room scene after the game. “First of all, there is so much love in that locker room. They were so happy for each other. As much as we talk about one game, each game is a championship opportunity. They were so happy for each other. They sung ‘Bear Down’ as loud as possible. They deserve every bit of it.” Arizona, which had the longest losing streak in the nation, won its sixth straight against California, a nemesis from the past that kept the Wildcats from a couple of potential Rose Bowl trips in the 1990s.


Todd Holthaus achieved win No. 300 in his 14th season at Pima (Pima graphic)

Todd Holthaus earned his 300th career coaching victory in his 14th season at Pima with the Aztecs’ 71-51 win at Phoenix College on Nov. 23. Holthaus improved to 300-138 in his career at Pima with the win. Holthaus had a reunion with Pima women’s basketball alumni Tia MorrisonDeana BledsoeGabby BanalesTaylor BlueFelicia Foster and Shalise Fernander after the game. “The most striking thing (about 300 wins) is that it goes so fast. When I see those kids at games, they’ve got professional careers,” Holthaus said. “I love watching young people succeed. Seeing them at the game, it means I meant something to them and they came to see the team play. That’s kinda cool.” His coaching background includes being an assistant coach under Joan Bonvicini at Arizona (2005-2007) and as the Flowing Wells girls coach (1998-2005; 160-64 record).


Jeff Scurran talks things over with QB Rhett Rodriguez during the 2016 4A state championship game (Andy Morales/

The legendary Jeff Scurran, who has the distinction of turning moribund programs into championship contenders, will take on that challenge at Rio Rico starting in 2022. Scurran, 74, was approved Nov. 23 by the Santa Cruz Valley School District Governing Board in a 4-0 to vote to become the 11th different coach to lead the Hawks since the program started in 1997. He is replacing Kevin Kuhm, who stepped down from his second stint at the school after the season. Scurran is taking over a program that finished 0-8 this season and has only one winning season in its 24-year history — 6-5 in 2013. The huge undertaking fits right into the tasks he has mastered before at Sabino, CDO, Santa Rita and Pima Community College, and two high school teams in Oregon, He made them all playoff-caliber teams after they struggled mightily before his arrival.


Kylie Wild of Salpointe is a two-time state champ (Andy Morales/

Salpointe standout Kylie Wild picked up her second straight individual cross country championship in D-III on Nov. 14. She finished the course in 18:41.0.  Wild’s time was more than 15 seconds faster than runner-up Evelynne Carr of American Leadership Academy-Queen Creek. Wild and Carr finished first and second last year as well, with Wild winning with a time of 18:37.30, 0.2 seconds faster than Carr.


Salpointe took home the boys cross country state title (Andy Morales/

The Salpointe boys won the 2021 Division III team championship on Nov. 14 at the Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix to give head coach Mike Urbanski his fifth combined state championship with two on the boy’s side and three from the girls. The Ironwood Ridge boys took second in D-II, the Catalina Foothills girls took third in D-II, the Salpointe girls took second in D-III and the Pusch Ridge girls took third in D-IV.

5: Ron Grant: Catalina Foothills, Sunnyside
5: Jeff Lockwood: Sahuaro
5: Mike Urbanski; Salpointe
4: Roger Bristow: Rio Rico, Tombstone
4: Doug Keen: Catalina Foothills


Salpointe’s Tyler Driscoll (on top) won three titles this year (Andy Morales/

Eight Southern Arizona swimmers won state titles in the state swimming meet Nov. 6:

Tyler Driscoll, Salpointe, 3 titles
Paige Housman, Pusch Ridge, 2
Ella Cosgrove, Catalina Foothills, 2
Sydney Even, Salpointe, 2
Riley Stewart, Canyon del Oro
Carter Dooling, Ironwood Ridge
Sterling Edwards, Salpointe
Sofia Prevatt, Salpointe


Paige Housman, Pusch Ridge: 1:49.32 (AA: C)

Paige Housman, Pusch Ridge: 4:54.18 (AA: C)

Ella Cosgrove, Catalina Foothills: 1:49.92

Ella Cosgrove, Catalina Foothills: 4:52.05

Tyler Driscoll, Salpointe: 23.26

Tyler Driscoll, Salpointe: 54.86

Riley Stewart, Canyon del Oro: 1:52.00

Sydney Even, Salpointe: 51.56

Carter Dooling, Ironwood Ridge: 56.28

Salpointe (Even, Sydney; Edwards, Sterling; Prevatt, Sofia; Driscoll, Tyler) 3:33.87


Marlies Mejia-Garcia placed first among women in the 2021 El Tour de Tucson (El Tour de Tucson photo)

Marlies Mejia-Garcia placed first among women and Jose Gerardo Ulloa Arevalo topped the men competition in the 102-mile 2021 El Tour de Tucson ride on Nov. 20. The popular Southern Arizona event returned in earnest this year after COVID-19 affected its operation last year.


–St. David junior QB Ryan Gooding completed 24 of 39 passes for 407 yards with six TDs in a 69-46 victory over Bagdad in the 1A quarterfinal round, earning himself the APS Digital Print/Frog & Firkin player of the week honor on Nov. 1

— Benson senior Devin Bowling rushed 15 times for 143 yards with a touchdown in a 49-7 playoff win over Sequoia Pathway on Nov. 5. He also led his team with eight tackles. Devin earned the APS Digital Print/Frog & Firkin player of the week honor.

— Ironwood Ridge junior running back Jordan Thomas rushed for 248 yards on 25 carries with four touchdowns, and he had a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the Nighthawks’ 69-27 win over host Marana on Nov. 12. His performance earned him the APS Digital Print/Frog & Firkin Player of the Week honor.

— Salpointe senior quarterback Treyson Bourguet and Empire senior running back/linebacker Jake Lambert each earned an Ed Doherty Award Nomination Medallion on Nov. 2 for their Week 11 performances. Bourguet completed 12 of 22 pass attempts for 184 yards and five touchdowns in Salpointe’s 45-7 win over Buena. Lambert rushed 33 times for 216 yards and touchdowns and added 10 tackles, three for loss, in the Ravens’ 27-7 win over Amphitheater.

Sam Thomas and Cate Reese were voted to the Preseason All-Pac-12 Team by the media, the league announced on Nov. 3. Arizona was picked to finish fifth in the conference in the same poll. Thomas, a senior, has been a key piece for the Wildcats since she arrived on campus for the 2017-18 season. The 6-0 Thomas was named All-Pac-12, All-Pac-12 Defensive Team, CoSIDA First Team Academic All-American, the Pac-12 Scholar-Athlete of the Year and the Elite 90 Award Winner after last season. Reese was named All-Pac-12 last season after averaging 10.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. 

— In customary Pusch Ridge fashion, the Lions and Thatcher met at the 50-yard line to pray together after the 3A state playoff game Nov. 5. Pusch Ridge was eliminated ending its season 8-3. After consoling his heartbroken team and taking a good deal of time to embrace every player who came up to him, Pusch Ridge head coach Kent Middleton reflected on how much the seniors mean to him. “You even hate to say the two words: good bye, but our seniors have been everything for this program,” Middleton said. “A great bunch of football players, great bunch of young men. Some of them are going to go on and play at the next level. It’s heart-rending to lose them because they’re just wonderful kids and great people.”

Kyon Barrs was named Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week and Kyle Ostendorp was named Pac-12 Special Teams Player of the Week on Nov. 8 after their tremendous performances that helped Arizona earn their first win of the season. Barrs is Arizona’s first Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the week and Ostendorp is the first Wildcat to be named Special Teams Player of the Week since Lucas Havrisik won in 2019. Barrs finished the game with a career-highs in both sacks (2.5) and tackles for a loss (3.0). Ostendorp averaged 50.1 yards per punt on seven kicks against Cal. He downed four punts inside the 20-yard line, including three inside the 10 and one at the 1-yard line. He played a crucial role in field position as Cal’s average field position was their own 21-yard line.

–The Tucson Youth Football & Spirit Federal City Championships were held at Tucson High on Nov. 6 after a year hiatus because of COVID-19 protocol. The results: 8U championship — No. 1 Tucson Thunder 26, No. 3 Oro Valley Dolphins 6; 9U championship — No. 1 Tucson Jaguars 27, No. 2 Tucson Redskins 12; 10U championship — No. 4 Sierra Vista Wolverines 31, No. 2 Tucson Wildcats 26; 11U championship — No. 4 Tucson Jaguars 13, No. 2 Vail Vikings 6; 12U championship — No. 1 Tucson Jaguars 32, No. 2 Tucson Raiders 0; and 13U championship — No. 1 Tucson Jaguars 48, No. 3 Vail Vikings 0.

Donny Sands

— Former Empire and Salpointe standout Donny Sands was drafted by the Yankees in the eighth Round of the 2015 draft as a third-baseman but the organization moved him over to the catcher spot where he began to shine this past year. Sands was called up to the Yankees based on Rule-5 eligibility (signed 18 years or younger with 5 years of experience) on Nov. 7. Sands split last season between Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hitting a combined .261 with 18 homers and 56 RBIs.

Jill Aguilera was named Pac-12 offensive player of the week on Nov. 8 after her record-breaking performance against Arizona State. It is Aguilera’s first Pac-12 Player of the Week honor and the only Pac-12 Player of the Week honor to be rewarded to a Wildcat this season. In her final match as an Arizona Wildcat, Aguilera scored a brace against in-state rival Arizona State. In her first goal of the night, Aguilera moved to tie for first in program history for career goals scored (32). After the Devils scored the equalizer, she came back to win the match off an overtime penalty goal. Aguilera secured Arizona’s seventh consecutive win over the Devils while also breaking the program record for career goals scored. She now holds the number one spot in program history for career goals at 33.

— Arizona had 28 field goals coming from 25 assists with only six turnovers, and defensively, it “bird-dogged” NAU in the first game of the Tommy Lloyd era Nov. 9. The phrase “bird-dogged” came from Lloyd in his description of Kerr Kriisa on defense in the 81-52 win. The players showered Lloyd with celebratory water in the postgame locker room. “I’ve been in a lot of locker room celebrations, but I’ve always been a guy who has been behind the scenes,” Lloyd said, “I let coach (Mark) Few (of Gonzaga) do that type of stuff.  It literally caught me off guard. I wanted to go in there and tell the guys we have some work to do. It was a great moment for those guys. They’ve been a real special group to be associated with every day. I’m lucky to be coaching them.”

— No. 15 Arizona took care of Cal State Northridge 87-44 in its season opener on Nov. 9 in front of 6,154 fans and that number included a very special guest in All-American Aari McDonald. The Wildcat fans were already visibly enjoying another huge win in person but the appearance of McDonald on the large screen above the court, combined with the announcement that McDonald will be included in the McKale Memorial Center Ring of Honor, sent the crowd to a boisterous standing ovation. McDonald’s appearance seemingly made time stand still for a brief moment as the current group of Wildcats diverted their attention away from head coach Adia Barnes during a team huddle at midcourt towards the direction of McDonald sitting court side before returning to listen to their game instructions. From one bright star to another, only McDonald and Barnes could command that sort of attention from fellow athletes. 

Nicholas Warren on signing day with his parents (Andy Morales/

— Ironwood Ridge catcher/outfielder Nicholas Warren signed to play for Arizona on Nov. 10’s National Signing Day. The junior is known as a tough defender and pitch-caller behind the plate. A complete list of signees that day:


Lucas Cardy, Grand Canyon
Marcus Delgado, New Mexico State
Dominic Felix, New Mexico
Liam Padden, Mercy College

Brian Mulholland, Wilson College

Kori Rominger, Southern Wesleyan
Julia Holt, Howard University
Isabella Porter, Regis
Megan Clark, Regis
Alina Felix, Nebraska

Morgan Hains, Pima

Fiona Merritt, Valparaiso


Isaiah Jackson, ASU
Caleb Herd, New Mexico
Ryan Garcia, Regis

Marley Moncada, New Mexico State


Aiden Key, Pima
Nicholas Warren, Arizona

Sophia Munoz, SUNY Canton

Makenna Brown, Colorado Christian
Hannah Ports, Montana
Raina Ports, Montana

Katie Jamieson, Embry Riddle
Haidyn Warner, Nebraska

Allison Birtcil, Yavapai
Emma Orton, Yavapai


Austin Scott, Oregon State


Samantha Peebles, UNLV

Riley Nielson, Southern Utah
Desiree Miranda, Pima

Track and Field
Eva Bruce, Colorado


Logan Cole, Arizona

Adia Barnes and Arizona celebrate a win over Louisville (Arizona Athletics photo)

Ranked No. 22 in the preseason by the Associated Press but No. 15 in the more currently accurate USA Today/Coaches poll, Arizona stunned consensus No. 6 Louisville on a neutral court in Sioux Falls on Nov. 12 at The Invitational at the Sanford Pentagon. Bendu Yeaney scored 12 points to go along with the 21 by Cate Reese. Shaina Pellington added nine points and Lauren Ware and Ariyah Copeland scored eight points each. Ware had a game-high 10 rebounds and three blocked shots. Sam Thomas set a record in starts and games played for Arizona at 127.

— Former Cienega standout Haley Harris earned California Pacific Conference (Cal Pac) earned Freshman of the Year honors on Nov. 12 playing for Embry-Riddle. Harris scored seven goals, the most for any freshman in the conference, and second most on her team.

— Benson head coach Chris Determan has always had great rushing attacks throughout his two decades coaching the Bobcats, but what senior Devin Bowling did Nov. 12 shines brighter than every other performance. Bowling had a historic night for No. 3 Benson with a school-record 419 rushing yards along with five touchdowns on the ground in the 48-6 win over visiting No. 11 St. Johns in a 2A quarterfinal game. He had 267 rushing yards by halftime. Benson punched its ticket back to the 2A state semifinals with the dominating win. 

— The Arizona women’s basketball team signed the best recruiting class in program history on Nov. 11 with all three signees recognized as top-100 recruits by ESPN HoopGurlz. All three are rated at least 4-stars with forward Maya Nnaji situated as a 5-star recruit. The Wildcats’ class is highlighted by the 6-4 Nnaji, sister of former Arizona men’s player Zeke Nnaji who is the highest rated recruit in program history, checking in as a five-star recruit according to the ESPN HoopGurlz top-100. The Hopkins, Minn., native is ranked ninth nationally and the number three forward in her class. Nnaji is a dominant forward who averaged 19.5 points and 8.5 boards per game as a sophomore and 24.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game her junior season. For her performance during the 2021 season, Nnaji was named the Minneapolis Star Tribune Metro Player of the year. She also was named to the Naismith Girls’ High School Player of the Year Watchlist. Joining Nnaji will be four-star guard Kailyn Gilbert, the nation’s No. 31 recruit and an elite scorer at all three levels. The speedy Gilbert has been named the Hillsborough County Player of the Year twice, First-Team All-State three times and Class 3A Florida Player of the Year once. The Tampa Bay, Fla., product also averaged 32.1 points per game as a sophomore and 27.3 points per game as a freshman. Along with Nnaji, Gilbert was also named to the Naismith Girls’ High School Player of the Year Watchlist. Alongside Gilbert and Nnaji, the Wildcats added Canadian guard Lemyah Hylton. Hylton, also a four-star recruit, is the highest-rated international recruit in the ESPN HoopGurlz Top-100, checking in at 85th overall. The Missassauga, Ontario, Canada, native also has international experience as she played for Team Canada’s U19 squad.  

CDO had a historic season (Andy Morales/

— It wasn’t the outcome Canyon del Oro was hoping for on Nov. 13 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, as the Dorados playing in their first state title match since 1980 fell 3-0 to Notre Dame Prep at the 2021 4A Volleyball State Championships. Despite their best effort, it was almost impossible for the Dorados to stop the Saints, who went marching on to victory after falling short last year themselves. CDO coach Michael Owens said while he doesn’t want to say the team was happy just to be there, he does want to emphasize they were happy for the opportunity to be there and it was possible this year.  “Coming from Southern Arizona, we always kind of have a chip on our shoulder when it comes to the Phoenix schools,” Owens said. “Usually, if it’s going to be someone, it’s going to be Salpointe representing us. So for us, it was a huge year just to get over the hump of ‘Hey, we beat Salpointe.’”

— Pima Community College athletics is nicknamed the Aztecs, which is a prideful tribute to Native Americans in this area because a link exists between the Mesoamerican culture of Mexico and Central America and the ancient civilizations of the Southwest, particularly the Hohokam. In this region of the Tohono O’odham nation — descendants of the oldest known Native American culture of the area, the Hohokam — it is fitting that Pima celebrates the importance of Indigenous people in our community. Pima coach Todd Holthaus was instrumental in the development of Nov. 13’s “In Honor of Indigenous People Game” festivities scheduled in coordination with the Aztecs’ game with Arizona Christian’s junior varsity team at Pima West Gym. “What inspired me was the fact that over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of coaching a number of Native American young ladies,” Holthaus said after the 85-71 win in front of a near-capacity crowd. “I’ve admired their strength, their ability to play basketball. The fact that they always want to get an education and go back and help their people, I’ve always held that dear to my heart. That’s amazing when you want to give back.”

— The Arizona senior forward Cate Reese, who had a game-high 21 points to knock off previous No. 6 Louisville on Nov. 12, was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday morning. It was her fourth weekly honor of her career and she celebrated the award by pouring in a game-high 15 points to help defeat Texas Southern 93-38 on Nov. 15. Reese banged the drum after the game and then Adia Barnes gathered her team together so the team could join 6,261 fans to watch the unveiling of the Final Four banner from last April when the Wildcats knocked off Indiana 66-53 to reach that promised land. Arizona blew past Connecticut 69-59 in the Final Four before falling to Stanford 54-53 in the national championship game.

Nycholas “Brock” McDaniel, a senior at Sunnyside High School, has been selected to play in the Third Annual Indigenous Bowl that will be played on Dec. 5 in Minneapolis at U.S. Bank Stadium — where the Minnesota Vikings play their home games. McDaniel, nicknamed after pro wrestler Brock Lesnar because of his flat-top crew cut, was a senior captain for the Blue Devils’ 6-4 team this season. Sunnyside coach Glenn Posey relied on McDaniel to help the Blue Devils achieve their first winning season since 2015.

— The Doak Walker award released the names of their 10 semifinalists who are still in the mix to win the honor for the 2021 season. The award honors the top running back in the country yearly, named after SMU legend Doak Walker. Former Salpointe standout Bijan Robinson of Texas is listed as one of the final 10 in the running for the Doak Walker award.

Mountain View alum Graham Spraker (

— Former Mountain View standout Graham Spraker earned the save in the Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game pitching for the Mesa Solar Sox of the Toronto Blue Jays. Spraker came in to pitch the top of the ninth and struck out two batters, retiring the side in order and earning the save. In 10 1/3 innings, Spraker whiffed 16 batters and allowed only three hits, two walks and one hit batsman for a 0.00 ERA. Former Cienega standout Nick Gonzales went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a run scored while batting second for the West in AFL Fall Stars Game. Gonzales is Pittsburgh’s No. 4 prospect and he led the AFL in batting average (.380) and OBP (.483) with 27 hits through 19 games.

— St. David volleyball coach Tylene Kieffer Miller passed away Nov. 12 at her home in Saint David, Arizona at the age of 59. Ty is survived by her loving husband, Marlin Miller; her three siblings, Darla Taylor ColvinMonty Kieffer, and Cindy Turner Gillespie and many nieces and nephews. Miller led the Tigers to four state championships (2013, 2016, 2019 and 2020) along with two runner-up finishes (2010 and 2018), making the Pima native one of the most successful volleyball coaches in Southern Arizona history.

— The Tucson Jaguars 13U team that competes in the Tucson Youth Football & Spirit Federation earned the Desert Mountain Regional Championship and advanced to the AYF national championship tournament Dec. 5-10 at Kissimmee, Fla. The Jaguars, who have former Arizona player Syndric Steptoe’s son Kayden on the team, defeated the Las Vegas Apex Predators 15-6 in El Paso on Sunday for the region title.

Christian Koloko has been a significant surprise until now (Arizona Athletics)

Christian Koloko’s mother flew from Cameroon to see her son play for Arizona for the first time. He didn’t disappoint, dominating at both ends in the Wildcats’ dominating 80-62 win over No. 4 Michigan on Nov. 21 in the Roman Main Event at Las Vegas. Koloko finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots, pointing to his mother after being presented the title belt as tournament MVP. ”She doesn’t know much about basketball,” Koloko said. ”I remember after the last game, she said we missed a lot goals. I was like no, we call those free throws, which was kind of funny. I’m going to go talk to her after this.” The Wildcats had to grind out a win over Wichita State on Friday in their first true test of the season. They put together an impressive all-around performance against Michigan in another measuring-stick game, leaving a top-five team in the desert dust.

— Koloko was rewarded for his great play in Vegas in wins over Wichita State and Michigan. He was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Nov. 22. It was the first of his career. He was named the MVP of the Roman Main Event after helping Arizona to the title with victories over Wichita State and then-No. 4 Michigan and 5-0 start. He averaged 17.5 points on 60 percent shooting (12-20), 9.0 rebounds, 4.0 blocks and 2.5 assists. He posted a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double against Shockers, followed by game- and career-high 22 points in upset of Wolverines. He limited Michigan’s All-American center Hunter Dickinson to season-low 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting.

— Former Cienega standout Nick Gonzales and former Mountain View standout Graham Spraker were named to the All-Arizona Fall League Team on Nov. 23. Gonzales and Spraker were both selected to take part in the Arizona fall League All-Star Game earlier in November. Spraker was also named Reliever of the Year by the league.

Doug Jones, who coached Pusch Ridge to a 2009 Class 2A state title after a successful 16-year major-league career as a reliever, passed away Nov. 22 at age 64 from complications with COVID-19. After five MLB All-Star game appearances and joining the 300-save club, Jones lived in Oro Valley and coached at Pusch Ridge in the 2009 season. His son Dawson was a senior pitcher-third baseman for the Lions when they won the title in 2009. “The chances of you getting a coach that played 18 years in the professional ball is slim,” Pusch Ridge senior third baseman Joey DeGroff told the Tucson Citizen in a 2009 interview. “It’s nice to have that experience. We’ve learned a lot. It has been great. His coaching style is laid back, but he can be intense as well, which I think works for this program.”

— Cienega’s football team started the season out 1-3 in Justin Argraves’ first season after coming from Tucson High but the Bobcats won seven in a row from there, including a 47-36 upset win at No. 8 Verrado in the 5A first round. The Bobcats finished 8-4 after a 45-21 loss to Horizon on Nov. 26. Cienega was one of the surprise teams in Southern Arizona after losing legendary coach Pat Nugent and a senior class that included 14 players who signed at the college level. The leadership of senior running back/linebacker tandem of Ritchie McCormick and Cole McFarland was essential to Argraves’ operation. Brayden Cherry, a junior quarterback, also had a breakout season.

— The historically successful season for Desert View came to an end Nov. 26. Robert Bonillas’ team finished 10-2 — with the most wins in school history — following a 31-13 loss at Goodyear Desert Edge. Serge Gboweiah ended his career with a touchdown run while compiling 87 yards on 17 carries. Fellow senior Carlos Alvarez gained 45 yards on seven carries and also scored a touchdown run. Gboweiah and Alvarez concluded their successful careers with 1,000-yard rushing seasons as sophomores in 2019 and as one of Southern Arizona’s best one-two punches on the ground.

Robert Bonillas coached Desert View to its first 10-win season (Javier Morales/

— It was an emotional road loss for No. 12 Canyon del Oro in the 4A quarterfinals on Nov. 26 as the Dorados fell to the No. 4 Glendale Cardinals 38-27. When head coach Dustin Peace gathered the Dorados in the end zone for one final time this year, he reminded the young men about their lifelong bonds developed through football. For the eight seniors on this team, it was a monumental year filled with sacrifice and commitment. “I thanked them for hanging on,” Peace said. “There’s only eight, but they’re leaders of this team. A lot of them sacrificed and moved positions to fit what we needed to fit. Our two predominant seniors were a tight end and a quarterback and they both play o-line now. We wouldn’t be the team we are without those kids making that sacrifice.” After dropping the first three games out of the gate, the Dorados roared back to defy expectations and snag a spot in the playoffs. In the first round against Lake Havasu , Canyon del Oro was able to upset the No. 5 Knights on the road. It was the Dorados’ first playoff win in seven years, marking a successful step for the program. The emergence of junior quarterback Caden Dawes played a significant part in the Dorados’ resurgence. Peace’s young team, led by Class of 2024 standouts Sa’Kylee Woodard, Kayden Luke and Chance Cassell, will be a bear for Southern Arizona schools the next two years.

— Where else do you see a team win the statistical battle – sometimes more often than you think – and still fail to win the game? Arizona, of course. Such is life for Arizona football. The afternoon of Nov. 27 was not exactly a stroll in a Tempe park because the Arizona State Sun Devils didn’t allow it in defeating Arizona 38-15 at Sun Devil Stadium. It was the fifth consecutive loss to the Sun Devils for Arizona and fourth time this season where Arizona out did its opponent – statistically – and lost. Once again, Arizona played well enough to play close but not well enough to win. Welcome to most of the 2021 season and Jedd Fisch’s first year. Arizona failed to score more than 17 points six times. Only once did it win. Of course, it helped the Wildcats snap that horrendous 20-game losing streak. “I’m looking for many a game with many points,” Fisch said. “It’s how you bounce back, right? We’re turning it around and I’m excited where our program is headed. There’s no question in my mind we’re going to be a good program over the course of time.”

— Arizona’s defense and Rutgers’ breakdowns on offense led to the ninth-ranked Wildcats dominating the Scarlet Knights on Nov. 27 in their last day of the Paradise Jam at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. The Wildcats built leads of 12-2 in the first quarter and 46-8 at halftime en route to their 80-44 win to improve to 7-0 overall. Adia Barnes’ team went 3-0 in the Paradise Jam with wins over Vanderbilt, DePaul and Rutgers. Cate Reese was the MVP of the three-day event while fellow captain Sam Thomas joined her on the All-Paradise Jam team.


— Canyon del Oro pitcher/outfielder Lucas Cardy to Grand Canyon on Nov. 10.

— Canyon del Oro second baseman Dominic Felix to New Mexico on Nov. 10.

— Cienega pitcher/first baseman Ryan Garcia to Regis on Nov. 10.

— Ironwood Ridge utility player Aiden Key to Pima on Nov. 10.

— Canyon del Oro outfielder Liam Padden to Mercy on Nov. 10.

— Walden Grove utility player Milo Rushford to New Mexico State on Nov. 10.

— Nogales utility player Saul Soto to New Mexico State on Nov. 10.

— Canyon del Oro soccer forward Brian Mulholland to Wilson on Nov. 10.

Ironwood Ridge’s Makenna Brown (Andy Morales/

— Ironwood Ridge golfer Makenna Brown to Colorado Christian on Nov. 10.

— Ironwood Ridge golfer Hannah Ports to Montana on Nov. 10.

— Ironwood Ridge golfer Raina Ports to Montana on Nov. 10.

— Ironwood Ridge guard Sophie Munoz to SUNY-Canton on Nov. 10.

— Sabino goalkeeper Samantha Peebles to UNLV on Nov. 10.

— Canyon del Oro swimmer Fiona Merritt to Valparaiso on Nov. 10.

— Sabino catcher Desiree Miranda to Pima on Nov. 10.

— Ironwood Ridge outside hitter Alison Birtcil to Yavapai on Nov. 10.

— Canyon del Oro outside hitter Morgan Hains to Pima on Nov. 10.

— Ironwood Ridge outside hitter Emma Orton to Yavapai on Nov. 10.

— Pusch Ridge catcher Laynné Miller to Biola on Nov. 15.

— Catalina Foothills tennis player Adele Fereres to Loyola-New Orleans on Nov. 16.

— Sabino pitcher Riley Nielson to Southern Utah on Nov. 20.

— Salpointe safety Cody Raetzman to Minot (N.D.) State on Nov. 20.

— Canyon del Oro utility player Kori Rominger to Southern Wesleyan on Nov. 23.

University’s Tanvi Narendran (Andy Morales/

— University tennis player Tanvi Narendran to Arizona on Nov. 28.



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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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