Pueblo’s Cazares sisters lead No. 4 Warriors into 4A state semifinals against No. 1 Mesquite

Pueblo coach Izzy Galindo is in the middle of the euphoria after the Warriors’ quarterfinal win over Sahuaro (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Pueblo senior captain Victoria Cazares scored eight straight points in the fourth quarter, a performance that proved to be enough to hold off Sahuaro’s last gasp on Tuesday night.

Her late-game heroics matched with her freshman sister America’s 12 points in the first half carried the fourth-seeded Warriors to a 57-50 win over No. 5 Sahuaro in the 4A state quarterfinal game.

Pueblo (22-7) will play at No. 1 Gilbert Mesquite (24-6) on Tuesday in a semifinal game at 7 p.m.

“I knew at the end I had to step up because I knew we had to get the win. I knew I had to step up at that point,” said Victoria, a guard whose 20 points increased her career total to 1,793.

Victoria made one of two free throw attempts with 47.9 seconds left to give Pueblo a 53-47 lead.

The Warriors, who led by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, had their lead cut to 53-50 with 32 seconds remaining on Ny’Anza Brown‘s 3-pointer.

Pueblo then turned the ball over, prompting a timeout.

Sahuaro turned it right back on the inbound pass and senior guard Myla Truitt was fouled. Truitt missed both free throw attempts but Nevaeh Sandoval grabbed the offensive rebound. She passed to Truitt, who was fouled again.

This time, with 19 seconds left, Truitt made both free throws to increase the lead 55-50.

After a missed 3-pointer by Sahuaro, Victoria Cazares was fouled. She hit both free throws with 6.3 seconds left to cap the scoring.

After the buzzer sounded, Pueblo’s players and coach Izzy Galindo gathered and yelled, “Final Four! Final Four! Final Four!” while jumping up and down.

Galindo is now two victories shy of winning the school’s first state championship in girls basketball and his 200th career win.

He has the Warriors back in the state semifinals for the first time since the 2017-18 season, when they lost in the championship game to Seton Catholic and finished with a school-record 30 wins (in a 30-3 season).

“I have the guards who can shoot and at anytime can start knocking down shots,” said Galindo, who is 198-94 in his 11th season as Pueblo’s coach. “I have five girls who can drive right or left and handle the ball extremely well.

“We have a really good shot if we can stay healthy and grades and all that stuff that goes with high school ball. From the beginning, I knew we had a really good shot at making some noise. And here we are in the Final Four …”



America Cazares finished with 17 points, giving her 498 points this season.

Her 12 points in the first half were critical inasmuch as Sahuaro took an early 8-2 lead and was up 24-18 with 1:15 remaining until halftime.

Truitt and America made 3-pointers in the last minute of the half to tie the game at 24 at halftime.

America had eight points in the last 2:33 of the half to get the Warriors back in the game.

“I was excited,” she said when she was asked if she felt any nerves early. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. We beat them two times (during the regular season). It’s hard beating a team for the third time.

“We wanted it more, I guess.”

Victoria said of her sister’s performance: “Honestly, I wasn’t impressed — I knew she could do it. I’m just glad she went off. She does that every game. She showed up for this game and we won. That’s all that matters.”

Pueblo outlasted Sahuaro in its three meetings this season with an average margin of victory of only 5.3 points.

One of the Cougars’ leading scorers, senior guard AJ Bonaparte, was in foul trouble throughout Tuesday’s game before fouling out with 1:06 remaining.

She finished with nine points while Cassie Coolidge, a junior, had 17. Nelly Ponds, a senior wing, tallied 14 points. Coolidge’s 12 points in the second half, including a couple of 3-pointers, kept Sahuaro within striking distance late.

Pueblo had significant contributions from Cazares’ supporting cast.

Truitt made those late free throws following Sandoval’s game-breaking offensive rebound after her free-throw misses. Truitt earlier made three 3-pointers in the game to finish with 11 points.

Consecutive baskets by Sandra Perez in the fourth quarter capped a 10-0 run that put the Warriors ahead 45-38 with 5:00 left. Sara Galindo made a 3-pointer in that stretch.

“We have a good core of players coming back next year,” Galindo said, referencing America Cazares and Sara Galindo and Sandoval, both sophomores. “We’re going to take it easy tomorrow (Wednesday). Get some shooting, see what we’ve got to work on and get ready for the next few days of practice (before playing at Mesquite on Tuesday).”


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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