The 2012 CAA Junior High School State Basketball Tournament began on February 11, and both the Salt River High School boys and girls junior high basketball teams qualified to participate. The boys team competed in the B group, while the girls competed in the A group.
The junior high boys, coached by Sam Carter, began the tournament by taking on the Legacy Traditional Athlos. Early in the first quarter, the Eagles showed great effort as Zachary Jones missed a shot attempt, but Skylar Santeo followed up his shot and put the ball away to take the 24-7 lead. The same play occurred in the Eagles’ next possession with the same players, followed by a put-back from Jacob Juan. At the end of the first half, Salt River led 38-10.
The Athlos failed to add another basket in the second half, and the Eagles ran away with the 50-10 win to advance to the next game, which took place at 8 p.m. on February 11. The boys took on Imagine at East Mesa and defeated them 52-8, allowing only 18 points to be scored against them in two games.
“The team is executing our plan and [is] extremely focused thus far,” Carter said. “The individual team members are challenged to know their responsibilities/job while on the court.”
He said the team’s full-court press had been very effective, and the up-tempo style has created a lot of scoring opportunities.
“Our team’s confidence, execution and attention to detail are peaking at the right time. My philosophy has always been the person who prepares and practices the hardest starts the game, and the person who plays the best finishes the game,” Carter said. “We have to continue to get better at executing our game plan and always give 100-percent effort.”
Girls Advance to Semifinals
The Lady Eagles took on Legacy Traditional Northwest Tucson in their first game of the tournament, defeating them 43-15. Salt River went up on Legacy 6-1 on scores from Nicole Melendez. At the end of the first quarter, the Lady Eagles led 8-1.
In the second quarter, Lucy Sanchez scored on an inbounds pass to take the 13-3 lead, followed by a lay-up from Melendez and a basketball coming underneath the basket after Murrica Youvella drove the baseline. Sanchez hit a shot and was fouled with 3:28 left in the half, but missed her free throw. After a turnover by Salt River, Layla Shaw dished the ball to Youvella underneath to improve their lead 21-7. Legacy added a basket with 33 seconds remaining on the clock, but Salt River held on to the lead and headed into the locker room ahead 21-9 at the half.
Salt River was able to hold Legacy scoreless in the third quarter, adding 13 points from Sanchez and Melendez; Salt River led 34-9 after three quarters of play. The girls added 8 points in the fourth quarter to earn the win.
On February 16, the Lady Eagles took on ASU Prep East. It was an intense game that ended with Salt River on top 29-24. The girls started the game with an early score from Youvella, followed by a jumper put away by Evangelena Burns. Melendez also added a score, and Salt River led 8-4 at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams scored 8 points in the second quarter. Two baskets were scored on fast breaks following steals by both teams. ASU Prep East began to pick up their momentum just before the half and headed into the locker room down 16-12 to Salt River.
The Lady Eagles scored on the first possession of the third, and after a defensive rebound from Youvella, who found Shaw, the team quickly added 2 more points. Salt River rebounded well in the third, grabbing 3 defensive and 2 offensive points to improve their lead 24-18.
ASU Prep East came out of the break with a fast-break bucket and trailed by 4. Salt River turned the ball over on their next possession and ASU Prep East added 2 more, but the Eagles answered back and led 26-22 with about four minutes remaining. ASU Prep East added another steal to their statistics and came within 2 points with 31.2 seconds left to play. Burns was at the line shooting two free throws; she capitalized on one shot and the Lady Eagles led 29-24. ASU Prep East had one final possession but turned the ball over, and Salt River walked away victorious 29-24.
“I think the girls have improved a lot on defense, especially since we lost a lot of older girls who were starters on the team; but these young kids have stepped up and have played better defense, and I think that is why we win,” head coach Robert Ramirez said.
He said the young players are good listeners, try to do what he asks of them, and are doing a great job. Despite the lead early on in the game, Ramirez said his team can never get comfortable.
“I tell them not to relax because any team can come back at any moment, so I tell them to keep working hard no matter what until we win the game—and then we can celebrate.”
The Lady Eagles took on South Pointe Junior High in the semifinals, but unfortunately they lost 42-17 and fell off the bracket for the championship title.
Junior High Boys Last Games
On Thursday, February 16, the Eagles played against Gilbert Early College, winning in dramatic fashion with a 2-point thriller, 42-40.
The team led throughout the entire game, with a 10-point lead at the fourth quarter. Gilbert Early College caught up at the last 30 seconds. The Eagles thought they would win with a 5-point lead, but they were caught off guard when Gilbert hit a 3-pointer at the last 10 seconds on the clock. But with little time on the clock, Gilbert was unable to score any more points, leaving the Eagles to take the win.
The next night, the Eagles played against Sabis International in the semifinals. They hoped to make it to the championship game, but unfortunately they were unable to crack the defense of the Sabis International team. The Eagles lost the semifinal game 64-36.