NOTEBOOK: Sunnyside girls hoops out of Open Division playoffs but top contender for 6A title

Sunnyside senior Nayeli Nidez-Acuña will lead her team in the 6A state playoffs next week (Curtis Dutiel/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

Sunnyside senior captain Nayeli Nidez-Acuña showed her valuable leadership of the young Blue Devils by becoming emotional about Tuesday’s opening-round loss to Peoria Sunrise Mountain in the Open Division playoffs.

Nidez-Acuña emerged from the locker room with tears in her eyes when she approached family members and friends following the 47-41 loss at Desert View (Sunnyside’s gym is undergoing renovations).

“It’s coming to an end,” Nidez-Acuña said of her distinguished high school career, one in which she has achieved at least 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. “I don’t want it to come to the end. I want to make an impact on how far we go.

“I want to continue. I want to get that ring. I really want to get that ring and finish off my senior year strong.”

Because the 12th-seeded Blue Devils (24-4) lost within the first two rounds of the Open Division to No. 21 Sunrise Mountain (23-5) they can compete in the 6A state playoffs that start Thursday with play-in games.

Sunnyside will be a high seed in the tournament with its first game scheduled for next Thursday.

The possibility exists that Sunnyside will face Sunrise Mountain again in the 6A bracket if the Peoria team loses at Chandler Seton Catholic on Thursday in a second-round game.

Sunnyside struggled in the fourth quarter, outscored by Sunrise Mountain 11-4.

Freshman guard Ylena Gross made the only field goal of the quarter for Sunnyside, a 3-pointer.

Nidez-Acuña did not score in the fourth quarter and finished with 12 points. She missed her first five free-throw attempts in the game before making two in the third quarter.

“She’s just a leader, man; it shows that she cares,” Sunnyside coach Justin Delgado said of Nidez-Acuña’s response to Tuesday’s loss. “It means a lot to her. She’s definitely the heartbeat of our team.

“She missed five or six free throws, which is uncharacteristic. She’s a 70 percent free throw shooter. She turned it over at the end. She’s taking it harder than anybody. She’s putting it on herself. And that’s what leaders do.”

Nidez-Acuña is now at 1,313 points and 1,024 rebounds in her career.

Gross led Sunnyside with 15 points against Sunrise Mountain.

Delgado also relies heavily on freshman point guard Dora Medina, who made a 3-pointer in the third quarter.

Alana Felix (two points) is the only senior aside from Nidez-Acuña who scored against Sunrise Mountain.

Delgado said of his youthful team’s experience in Tuesday’s game: “I think it was pretty good for them so they can see what playoff basketball is going to be like. Just getting those repetitions, so they know the next time they step on the court, it’s just full go.”

Salpointe and Sahuaro advance in girls Open Division playoffs

No. 3 Salpointe and No. 15 Sahuaro won their respective games at home Tuesday night to advance to the second round of the Open Division state playoffs on Thursday.

The Lancers (23-3) will host No. 14 Surprise Valley Vista (17-4) and the Cougars (22-8) will travel to No. 2 Phoenix Xavier Prep (22-4). Both games are at 7 p.m.

If Salpointe and Sahuaro win, they stay in the Open Division until the end. If they lose, they will compete in the 4A state playoffs starting next week.

Sahuaro defeated No. 18 Goodyear Estrella Foothills 51-43 and Salpointe beat No. 30 Queen Creek Casteel 60-33 on Tuesday.

The Cougars were led by seniors Cassie Coolidge (17 points), Kristen Valdez (15) and Ny’Anza Brown (11).

Five players scored in double figures for Salpointe, all of them juniors — Sidney Anderson (14), Hannah Williams (11), Taliyah Henderson (11), Jordan Watts (10) and Allison Even (10).

The Lancers will obviously be a team to watch the rest of this postseason and next.

Pusch Ridge excelling in postseason in basketball and soccer

No. 9 Pusch Ridge’s girls basketball team lost 49-44 in overtime to visiting No. 24 ALA-West Foothills on Tuesday in a 3A first round game, but the Lions overall are experiencing success within the athletic program this winter.

The boys basketball team is the No. 13 seed of the 3A boys tournament and will host No. 20 Thatcher in a first-round game Wednesday at 7 p.m.

No. 2 Pusch Ridge’s boys soccer team will play No. 1 Gilbert Christian for the 3A state championship on Saturday at 4:15 p.m. at Scottsdale Coronado High School.

This will be the second championship appearance for the Lions, who lost to NW Christian 3-2 in 2010. This is Gilbert Christian’s first final appearance. 

The No. 5 Pusch Ridge girls soccer team plays at No. 1 Gilbert Christian on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in a 3A semifinal game.


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 in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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