2023-24 Girls Basketball

Salpointe wins second 4A state championship in last three seasons

Salpointe won the 2021-22 and 2023-24 state championships, the first two in program history (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

No. 1 Salpointe defeated No. 2 Mesquite 59-49 on Thursday night at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Phoenix to claim its second 4A state championship in the last three seasons.

The Lancers (27-4) won their four games in the 4A tournament by an average of 29.5 points after losing in the second round of the Open Division tournament against Valley Vista on Feb. 15.

Salpointe coach Joseph Luevano’s team was led by Taliyah Henderson (18 points and six rebounds), Sidney Anderson (16 points) and Jordan Watts (10 points).

The Lancers led for all but 10 seconds in the game, taking a 17-10 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We have an incredible group of selfless players,” Luevano told AllSportsTucson.com’s Andy Morales. “They were so in this together and they really buy into that. We needed every ounce of that.”

Salpointe built the margin to 33-16 at halftime.

Henderson and Anderson each had 12 points at that point.

Salpointe shot 60.9 (14 of 23) percent from the field while Mesquite was 5-22 (22.7 percent) from the field, 1 of 8 from beyond the arc in the first half.

“Our mentality, our toughness, we were able to battle through and win again,” said Henderson, a junior multi-skilled 6-foot-2 player who has Arizona and many other schools among her college suitors.

“There’s one thing you can control in basketball and that’s your effort,” Anderson added. “If shots aren’t falling, coach told us you can control your effort. … I am just saw proud of these girls. We worked hard and deserve this.”

Salpointe starting forward Hannah Williams suffered a knee injury late in the first half and did not start the second half.

Henderson and Allison Even each also got into foul trouble with four fouls each.

Mesquite took advantage of the situation, outscoring Salpointe 33-26 in the second half.

“Going up 17 at the half, we knew it was not going to be over,” Luevano said. “We knew (Mesquite) coach (Candice) Gonzales’ squad is always going to be ready. We got into significant foul trouble. We had a significant injury — Hannah Williams did an incredible job in the first half — but we had to patch through it.

“But that’s the resilience and toughness of those kids. We got the buckets that we needed when we needed to. We made the free throws that were timely. We also got the defensive stops when we needed them even though the momentum was shifting on us.”

The Lancers finished shooting 56.8 percent from the field while Mesquite was 33.3 percent.

Salpointe’s defense also produced 12 steals, led by three each from Henderson and Anderson.

They mentioned Salpointe had a chip on its shoulder as Southern Arizona’s representative in the state championship. They wore “Tucson” with their logo on their warmup shirts.

“It feels amazing,” Henderson said. “Honestly, there’s a lot of people in different areas that have doubted us. … We’ve had a chip on our shoulder since I’ve been here since my freshman year. We came out and faced all the other talk. We’re here. We had one mindset and that was to win the gold ball (trophy). We’re grateful to do that today.”

Incredible: Henderson, Anderson, Williams, Watts, Even and most of Salpointe’s production will return next season.

Freshman reserve guard Jayci Nelson also contributed with five points, making both of her shots, including a 3-pointer, and three rebounds.

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