THURSDAY NIGHT’S PUEBLO-FLAGSTAFF GAME FOR THE 4A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP AT 6 P.M. AT PHOENIX’S VETERAN MEMORIAL COLISEUM WILL BE STREAMED LIVE ON THE NFHS NETWORK. ALSO, ALLSPORTSTUCSON.COM’s ANDY MORALES AND BRITTANY BOWYER WILL TWEET LIVE UPDATES.
Pueblo and Flagstaff will meet for the third time in the last seven years in the state playoffs, this time for a championship when the teams play Thursday night in Phoenix.
Flagstaff ended Pueblo’s 26-2 season in 2016-17 with an 84-65 win in a quarterfinal game in Flagstaff.
The Warriors improved to 30-2 and gained a spot in the 2017-18 championship at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix by beating Flagstaff 52-32. Pueblo lost to Seton Catholic in the title game.
No. 4-seeded Pueblo (23-7) will play No. 2 Flagstaff (25-6) at 6 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum for the 4A state championship.
Just visited @PuebloGirlsBB practice. Told at least 110 students will be taken by bus tomorrow to Phoenix for the 4A state championship game with Flagstaff at 6 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Warriors hoping for some loud support. I know Southern AZ is behind them.
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) March 1, 2023
The Warriors will try to achieve the first girls basketball state championship in school history.
Flagstaff, which lost to Salpointe Catholic last year in the championship, has not won a title since 1992 when the Eagles captured the 4A winter title (girls basketball back then was split between schools that played in the winter and the spring).
“They play a lot like we do, similar, run-and-gun, like to shoot 3’s, that kind of stuff,” said 11-year Pueblo coach Izzy Galindo, who is also going for his 200th career victory as a head coach.
IZZY GALINDO’S RECORD AT PUEBLO
Both schools have freshmen guards who are among their leading scorers — America Cazares with Pueblo and Bella Burcar at Flagstaff.
America Cazares is averaging 17.6 points game, behind her sister Victoria, a senior guard who is at 18.6 a game. America is also the second-leading rebounder for Pueblo averaging 5.2 a game.
“I am more of like the leader of a team, and I just try to work with America because she’s my sister, obviously,” said Victoria, who has 1,812 points in her career. “I just try to calm her down all the time, because I’ve like never really seen her feel pressure until yesterday (Tuesday in the 52-48 semifinal win at No. 1 Mesquite after she missed a couple of shots).
“I know she can score. I just like need her to get it out of her head if she gets frustrated. Me being the leader, I just make sure that everyone is on their best to play.”
America finished with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Victoria and America get Pueblo’s transition game going off their steals — Victoria leads the Warriors with 3.6 a game and America is next at 3.2.
Flagstaff also has a talented sister combination with twins Jazmine and Jaydean Dugi, both juniors.
In Flagstaff’s 68-49 semifinal win Tuesday over visiting Glendale Deer Valley, Jazmine Dugi had a game-high 18 points and Jaydean had 10. Sage Begay added 15 and Burcar scored 14. The Eagles made 12 shots from 3-point range.
“We’re back now (in the championship game) and we have a chance to actually win it,” Eagles coach Tyrone Johnson told the Arizona Daily Sun.
Begay, a guard, is the only senior among Flagstaff’s top six scorers. She is averaging 11.4 points as well as 4.2 rebounds and 2.6 steals a game.
Pueblo seniors Myla Truitt, a guard, and Sandra Perez, a forward, are key contributors in Galindo’s top rotation.
Truitt, averaging 7.3 points and 2.1 steals per game, has the ability to hit clutch 3-pointers. Perez and sophomore forward Nevaeh Sandoval combine for 7 rebounds a game.
Sophomore guard Sarah Galindo, Galindo’s step-daughter, is the third-leading scorer on the team at 8.7 points per game.
Many of the Pueblo’s players have been together since they were in middle school.
“They know how to play together; they’ve been playing together for a while,” Izzy Galindo said. “Sarah, America, (senior) Mia (Rodriguez), Sandra and Victoria all played together at Hollinger right up the street.
“And then Myla, Victoria and Sandra have been together since they were in sixth grade playing on my club team. So they’ve got some chemistry. Sometimes it doesn’t come out, but when it does, it’s fun to watch.”
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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.