Les Willsey
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

Defense put Gilbert High in a hole Tuesday, but courageous base running and offense dug the Tigers out of that trench and on to an eighth consecutive victory. Cassie Vela stole home on a delayed steal to plate the tie-breaking run and Elysia Mesa ripped a two-run double for insurance a bit later as Gilbert defeated Desert Ridge, 7-4, in a 5A-I non-region softball game at Gilbert. It was the first power-point game of the season for both schools.

Mountain View boys basketball coach Gary Ernst reminded his players at halftime of their quarterfinal matchup with Corona del Sol on Saturday night the importance of what was coming up. A halftime talk he has made many a time. \\\"I told them the first five minutes of the third quarter in a game like this is critical,\\\" Ernst said.

It speaks volumes of a team when its leading scorer averaging a tad under 20 points a game scores just three points and his team still wins the state championship handily. That team Saturday afternoon was 2010 4A-II bridesmaid Amphitheater. The Panthers capped a brilliant 29-2 campaign with a more than decisive 87-77 boys basketball victory over Tempe High at Jobing.com Arena.

The defining moment for Seton Catholic Saturday morning came in the final 10 seconds of the first half of its 4A-II girls championship game against Thunderbird. Thunderbird hoisted up a shot from half court that caromed off the backboard. Noone blocked out the shooter, Shelbie Hess, and she snuck through the lane and scored as the half ended giving the Chiefs a 27-26 lead at halftime. That was an attention getter. No. 2 Seton stormed out in the third quarter, regained command and finally wore down No. 5 Thunderbird in the final period to notch a 61-49 victory and win its second straight state title at Jobing.com Arena.

Aubrey Lincoln had to take time off in the fourth quarter Friday night to deal with her fourth foul, but the only points she contributed in that quarter were oh so huge. Lincoln sank two free throws with 10 seconds left to break a 51-51 tie and give fifth-seed Xavier a heart-stopping 53-51 victory over No. 4 seed Highland in a 5A-I girls basketball quarterfinal battle at Highland.

It took a couple innings to happen, but Hamilton opened its baseball season Friday afternoon in fine fashion. With just about every facet of the game reporting in, the Huskies erased a 1-0 deficit in the top of the fourth inning and went on to pound Desert Vista, 10-1, in the opener for both teams at the Desert Vista invitational.
Baseball Les Willsey February 25, 2011

Red Mountain boys basketball coach Greg Sessions saw a film (actually a game) in November called The Battle of Red Mountain & North. He saw it a second time in December. Witnessed it a third time Wednesday night. He is still searching for the alternate ending. For the third time since just before Thanksgiving, Red Mountain had defending 5A-I state champ North on the ropes for a half or better. And for the third time Wednesday, North came back in the second half to turn away the Mountain Lions, 69-62, this time in the first round of the 2011 state tournament at North High School.

Seton Catholic earned a chance at a 4A-II girls basketball repeat Wednesday with a strong first half predicated on balanced scoring and defense. A tough recipe to overcome. The second-seeded Sentinels amassed a 32-13 lead at halftime and were in command for the duration in posting a 61-39 victory over No. 3 seed Cactus in a semifinal game at Jobing.com Arena.

If there was any shred of doubt which team would win the 2A boys state basketball championship on Saturday night, Westwind Prep standout Demarquise Johnson put an end to that. Johnson put on a second-half offensive clinic as Westwind pulled away from a single-digit lead early in the third period to topple Thatcher, 82-63, at Tims Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.

Valley Christian girls basketball is all about defense. That aspect was on display again Saturday as the Trojans bid for their second consecutive 2A championship. Plugging the middle and making every shot Thatcher took in the paint a tough one, Valley Christian made a close game a rout in the second half with a 53-35 triumph over the Eagles at Tims Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.

After watching Fort Thomas score the first six points of the third period and take the lead 23-22, Gilbert Christian decided it was not going to allow the Apaches the momentum to pull off an upset. With senior Molly Van Rijn leading a late charge in the third period, the Knights wrapped up their second 1A girls basketball title in three years with a 44-31 victory over Fort Thomas at Tim\\\\\\\'s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.

Chandler and Mesa Mountain View have not waivered in their bid to be strong 5A-I contenders in girls basketball this season. With the teams heading to state next week as top-4 seeds neither wanted to enter the tournament with a bad taste in its mouth. One team had to Thursday night and it happened to be Chandler. Mountain View overcame a scoreless first quarter and 17-point deficit to hand Chandler a 53-52 loss at Mountain View.

2596 articles by Les Willsey