Twenty-four high school basketball teams competed in the Division IV state tournament, vying to win a spot in the championship game that took place on February 25 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. The tournament began February 11, with all first-round games taking place at Prescott and Bradshaw Mountain High School.
Raymond S. Kellis High School played host to sectionals in Glendale. The Salt River Lady Eagles were hoping for a high seed, but they suffered a loss to Tempe Prep 45-34. Salt River started the game with a big defensive rebound from Rachael Cooper, who dished the ball to Celia Padilla-Hicks. Camille Zimmerman from Tempe Prep finished a lay-up at the other end and took the 2-0 lead, but Kishan Cooper hit a jumper to answer the basket. Briana Kewanwytewa drove to the basket for Salt River and was fouled by Zimmerman. She converted on one of two free throws and gave Salt River their first lead of the game, 3-2. Cooper finished another lay-up after the Eagles were down 4-3 and regained the 1-point lead. But Tempe Prep pushed with 48.7 seconds left in the first quarter and grabbed the 11-6 lead. Kewanwytewa attacked the basket, but she was fouled and went to the free-throw line, hitting 2 of 2 to trail 11-8. Cooper scored on another fast break and came within 1 point, but Marissa Rich from Tempe Prep answered back, and Tempe led at the end of the first quarter, 13-10.
At the start of the second quarter, Salt River played aggressive and drove to the basket, falling short, but pulling down three offensive rebounds before Kewanwytewa put the ball in the basket to trail 15-14. Tempe Prep inbounded the ball and headed down the court, but Rachel Cooper earned a block and the loose ball was picked up by Tempe Prep, who couldn’t finish on the other side of the court.
The Lady Eagles scored on their next possession and regained the 17-15 lead. A great pass by Joy Manuel was mishandled by Padilla-Hicks and Tempe Prep capitalized to tie the game at 17.
Tempe Prep scored 6 unanswered points and a foul against Rich put her on the line, where she hit two of two shots and put the lead at 24-17. Salt River turned the ball over, giving Tempe Prep a breakaway and a basket to make it 26-17 at the half.
The Lady Eagles started the second half with a steal by Kishan Cooper, who scored to make it 26-19. Salt River fouled Tempe Prep on a rebound attempt and they were able to hit one free throw. But Kewanwytewa answered back with a 3-point shot and decreased the lead to 5 points. With just more than five minutes left to play in the third quarter, both teams played tough defense; it wasn’t until a loose ball was recovered by Tempe that they were able to convert, leading 28-22. Kishan Cooper was fouled and hit two of two free-throw attempts to trail 33-26. The Lady Eagles worked back; Rachel Cooper pulled down a defensive rebound and dished the ball to Leann Watchman, but the ball came loose and Tempe Prep was fouled going the other way, giving them two free throws, one of which they converted on. Kewanwytewa tried for the second attempt under the basket on the Lady Eagles possession and was fouled. She was shooting 1-and-1 but missed, and Rachel Cooper finished the basket for 2 points. Salt River trailed 34-30 at the end of the third quarter.
Neither team scored in the fourth quarter until the 5:39 mark, when Zimmerman hit one free throw and Salt River headed back down the court, but another turnover hurt their chances as Janel Brinkman of Tempe Prep attacked the basket and scored to take the 37-30 lead.
The Lady Eagles trailed by 4 points when Rachael Cooper was fouled on the way up to the basket, but was unable to convert on free throws. Tempe Prep took advantage and added a crucial 3-pointer with less than three minutes in the game. Salt River was only able to add one more basket, eventually falling to Tempe Prep 45-34.
The Lady Eagles entered the state tournament as the No. 13 seed and were matched up with No. 20-ranked Valley Lutheran; Salt River was able to execute on the floor, winning 56-30.