Hot to the end, Scottsdale Saguaro girls basketball beats Tucson Flowing Wells for 1st Division II title

Hot to the end, Scottsdale Saguaro girls basketball beats Tucson Flowing Wells for 1st Division II title

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Hot to the end, Scottsdale Saguaro girls basketball beats Tucson Flowing Wells for 1st Division II title

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Scottsdale Saguaro thought it was really close to its first girls basketball state title last year, when it lost to Tucson Palo Verde in the quarterfinals. A newspaper clipping from that loss has hung in the team room throughout the 2012-13 season.

After Saguaro beat Tucson Flowing Wells 49-38 in the Division II state finals Saturday at Jobing.com Arena, that bulletin material is coming down in favor of something new.

“Every practice we looked up at our wall and there’s no girls banner,” said junior guard Casey Rarrick. “So that we’ll see a girls banner up there is just amazing.”

Through the couple months of the season, even a return to the quarterfinals seemed like an unaffordable luxury. Saguaro was sitting at 13-8 as recently as Jan. 16 – beating the bad teams, losing to the good ones.

Second-year coach Chris Young thinks a switch was flipped with a 16-point win over Scottsdale Notre Dame in late January after Notre Dame had hung a 17-point loss on Young’s team earlier. The rest of the basketball world took notice when Saguaro upended defending champ Chandler Seton Catholic in the sectional finals, a win that propelled Saguaro (26-9) into a first-round bye at state.

The rest of the coaching community would like to know where that switch is. If Young isn’t telling, it’s because he’s not quite sure either.

“I really don’t think there are any words for it,” Young said. “The girls never stopped believing, the coaches never stopped believing.”

Wherever it is, Saguaro routinely punched it in the fourth quarter in the state playoffs. Sizzling outside shooting boosted it to a 41-40 comeback win over top-seeded Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain in the quarterfinals, and downed Peoria Liberty in the semis.

Against Flowing Wells (29-5), it lasted all game. Saguaro went 9 of 19 from beyond the arc, the last a backbreaking bomb from junior Naomi Reyes to extend the lead to 41-32 early in the fourth. Reyes was also fouled on a 3-point attempt to start the quarter, and made all three free throws.

“That kind of started their run for them,” Flowing Wells coach Michael Perkins said. “We weren’t able to match that fourth quarter.”

Rarrick led Saguaro with 15 points and five steals, and Reyes had 13 points, all in the second half.

Flowing Wells senior Lyndsay Leikem had a monster game with 19 points, 11 rebounds, three blocks and four steals, but scored only two points in the fourth quarter.

She’ll be suiting up for Indiana next year.

“There are a bunch of kids out there who can really play and shoot the ball and all that kind of stuff, but when I’m looking for a great player, I pick the kid that makes everybody else around them better,” Perkins said. “And she does that.”

As for Saguaro, every member of its starting five will be back next season. Repeat?

“I just want to enjoy this right now,” sophomore point guard Jelani Huma said. “Next season I’ll work on it.”

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