Salpointe pulls away to beat Agua Fria

Salpointe pulls away to beat Agua Fria

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Salpointe pulls away to beat Agua Fria

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GLENDALE — No. 6 Tucson Salpointe Catholic defeated No. 12 Avondale Agua Fria 53-45 Thursday in the semifinals of the Division II state tournament at Jobing.com arena.

Salpointe will play the winner of Thursday’s late Phoenix Paradise Valley-Phoenix Sunnyslope semifinal for the state championship at noon Saturday at Jobing.com Arena.

With the score 35-35 with 3:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, Salpointe (23-10) was able to solidify its nearly game-long lead down the stretch. It pulled ahead of Agua Fria (17-13) by holding off leading scorer Isaiah Lopez.

“I just felt so confident in those last three minutes that we could get them stopped,” Salpointe coach Brian Holstrom said. “We just kind of thrived on defense so even though free throws went the other way and we didn’t really execute the offensive stuff, defense wins.”

Lopez was the only Agua Fria player able to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the first two quarters. He had 17 of Agua Fria’s 21 points in the first half, finishing it off by banking in a 3-point buzzer-beater and going 8 of 10 at the free-throw line. Alex Solarez contributed the other four points to make the score 27-21 at the half.

Then, Salpointe was able to shut Lopez out, and his free throws no longer dropped. He went 2 for 6 at the line with three field goals to finish with 25 points. Solarez finished with 14 points.

With senior Daniel Arzouman in foul trouble early in the second half, Salpointe relied on the scoring talents of junior Cameron Denson, who finished with 22 points, and sophomore Jaylyn Juan, who added 10 points.

“It’s win or go home, and I love this type of environment and this type of energy,” Denson said. “I don’t feel any pressure when it comes to games like this.

“Coach told me to go be a leader out there, and I wasn’t at the beginning of the season, but I’m out there now.”

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