No. 5 Catalina Foothills upsets No. 4 Campo Verde to reach 5A girls hoops semifinals

GILBERT — The Catalina Foothills Lady Falcons (24-5) have reached the 2023 girls basketball 5A Final Four following a massive 49-40 upset on the road over No. 4 Campo Verde (22-9) on Tuesday. As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the 5A quarterfinal, the Falcons could hardly contain their emotions until the final buzzer as they were ready to erupt with excitement to celebrate the fruits of their labor.


Leading up to the start of the season, hardly anyone had their eyes on Catalina Foothills as one of the teams to watch in the conference; Now, the falcons are knocking at the door of making only the program’s second state championship appearance in its’ 30-year history.

The only time the Lady Falcons have made a trip to the state championships were during the 1996-1997 school year. Under Patty Patton Shearer, Catalina Foothills defeated Thunderbird 50-29 to win the 4A state championship. Now, coach Jake Martinez and his roster are looking to end the drought and lead the team back to the big stage.

“This is a great team,” Martinez said. “The coaches were really well prepared for us. I tried to watch as much film as I could, and they threw some things at us that I kinda wasn’t ready for, but I was really grateful the way my team responded.”

Catalina Foothills was able to take control early and hold onto the lead through the end of the first quarter, as the Falcons had the upper hand. At the end of the first quarter, the Falcons had taken a 13-8 lead.

Senior Reilly Clark opened up the second quarter by continuing to set the tone for the Falcons by fighting for the rebound in the paint and getting the second-chance points for Catalina Foothills to extend the lead.

Campo Verde looked to counter and find energy but struggled to close the gap as time was running out before halftime. Calling a timeout, Campo Verde looked to figure out a plan of attack with 2:08 left to play, but Catalina Foothills hung strong to close out the quarter. Sophomore Mercy Martinez had the final shot before the half for the Falcons, giving them a 24-18 lead at the break.

Coming back out of the half, Clark had the opening bucket for the Falcons, helping them maintain their small cushion over the Coyotes. Nearly trading shot for shot, Martinez was able to get off the final basket of the third quarter to extend the lead to 38-30 with eight minutes remaining.

With their backs against the wall, Campo Verde started putting up shots from all over the court in an effort to stay in the game. Senior Kinzey Hutchings opened the quarter with a basket from behind the arc to bring the Coyotes within five early, while also adding the pressure to the Falcons late in the game.

Clark was able to cut her way to the rim to extend the lead back to 40-33, but another long shot from freshman Bianca Hurtado cut things to only 40-36 with 4:29 remaining in the game.

Campo Verde’s defense was giving it everything they had on the court to try to stop Catalina Foothills late in the game, but Clark was still able to bounce the ball over to junior Julia Ford for a beautiful jump shot to push the lead to 42-36.

“I love role players,” Martinez said. “Role players do exactly what they did tonight; They make shots when it counts. Julia Ford knocking down that baseline jumper there to give us a little bit of a cushion, Clara-Mae Hrouch just taking care of the ball, everybody knows their role.”

Little did the Falcons know just how much Ford’s shot would mean to them in just a few minutes, as Campo Verde was able to cut the lead to 42-40 with 1:41 remaining on a second-chance bucket.

However, a foul on the other end against Clark on a 3-point shot would send her to the line where she knocked down all three shots to give the Falcons a 45-40 lead with less than a minute left. Campo Verde attempted to foul their way back into the game, but it was too late. With the final bucket of the game coming from behind the line for the Falcons, they were able to battle their way past the obstacles and adversity to reach the 5A semifinals with a 49-40 upset on the road.

“I think they were prepared for it, and I think they were really comfortable,” Martinez said. “I was surprised with how comfortable they were in those last few minutes. This team is special.”

Gathering with the cheerleaders and their fan section after the game, the girls made a dance circle and had fun celebrating their victorious night on the road.

“Being in Tucson, it’s hard to get battle-tested like this,” Martinez said. “They did it just taking care of themselves, and taking care of the basketball. I’m really proud of them.”

Leading things on the court for the Falcons on Tuesday was Clark, who had 21 points, seven rebounds, an assist, three steals and six blocks. Hrouch had 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and five steals, and sophomore Valeria Luzania had 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal.

“I don’t know who we’re playing next, but it doesn’t really matter because it’s just about these girls and the kind of basketball they play,” Martinez said. “They play for each other, they play with joy and they play hard together, so it’s just about us.”

Catalina Foothills will return the Valley to play at top-seeded Canyon View Jaguars (22-7). The game will be played in Waddell on Tuesday at 7 p.m. to determine who will advance to the 5A state championship game.

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