Full recap of MLK Basketball Classicby Andy Morales on Jan. 22, 2013, under Sports
It took 12 hours to play seven high-level basketball games on Monday night but, in the end, it was worth every minute.
The MLK Classic has been played at McKale Center since 2007 and I have been to every minute of every game for the last four years but I had never experienced the excitement or witnessed the last-second heroics that was on display like I did this year.
The day featured two overtime games with another in the making, high-level scoring, a lengthy delay due to an injury, a few remarkable National Anthem performances, bus loads of cheer, pom and dance squads, teachers and students recognized and speeches from MLK playing on overhead scoreboard.
We also had the children of two former University of Arizona basketball icons take the court and a son of the current Wildcat coach suited up for the top-seeded Catalina Foothills team.
Being one of a few remaining reporters in town who actually saw Joe Nehls play when he was just a freshman at Arizona, it was easy to recognize the name a couple of years ago when his son, Austin Nehls, took to the court for Catalina Foothills.
Having been the first to break the news of a Nehls still playing hoops in town, it was very moving to see the younger Nehls drain a 3-pointer in the same arena where his father made so many long-range shots. Of course, the floor was different back then and there was no 3-point line.
Austin’s 18 points over Sabino was one of the highlights of my day and it was even more meaningful when I looked over my shoulder from press row and saw his father watching from the stands….
Also moving, but for very different and personal reasons, was watching Anthony Cook’s daughter Mikaela Cook take the court for Flowing Wells.
I first met Mikaela and her older sister Vanessa several years ago when both were playing for Pusch Ridge before Mikaela transferred to Flowing Wells and their mother Veronica filled me in on who their father was. Unfortunately, it was a story all too familiar for someone like me who happens to teach young children being brought up by single mothers or by their grandparents (rich or poor, it doesn’t matter).
To put it simply, Cook has not been a part of his daughters lives by his choice and, in the years that I have come to know the girls, their mother and their grandmother, I can say it’s his loss completely.
I do not mention this to tear down a local icon – only to put things in perspective. We all make mistakes and I am certainly guilty of a more than a few myself but Anthony Cook was not in the stands to watch his daughter play on the court where so many watched him play but hundreds of other fans were and I know that’s all that matters to Veronica.
Veronica has never missed one play of all the games her daughters have ever taken part in……
Going game by game, it will be the last time Desert Christian’s Sara Boice will get to play in McKale Center. The senior standout has been a regular all-star in both basketball and soccer in her four years at Desert.
When I first met her, Sara was very difficult to interview due to shyness. Her shyness is now gone but not her desire to win. Her 17 points led the Eagles to a 43-27 victory over Empire to start the day off. Junior Katie Nelson led Empire with 7 points.
As of now, Boice has turned down all offers to play college soccer or basketball….
The second game featured an overtime match between Cholla and Canyon del Oro. Ty Ochse made a steal and was fouled with 17.3 seconds and then sank two free throws to put CDO up 55-52 with 17.3 seconds left.
Cholla needed a 3-pointer to tie it and they got it from Julio Duarte 4.3 seconds left.
CDO made only 1 of 3 free throws in overtime and Cholla led 57-56 with 34 seconds left. Andres Gomez hit a free throw to make it 58-56 with 27.8 left but Nico Hughes hit a 3-pointer to put CDO up 59-58 with 6.3 seconds left.
Jorge Carrasco missed a 3-pointer but Gomez was there with the put-back as the buzzer sounded – Cholla wins 60-59 and the Cholla bench exploded….
Duarte scored 21 while Ochse led all scorers with 22 and John Jackson had 14 and Jordan Closs-Lopez had 12 for CDO.
The third game featured the Salpointe girls against one of the best teams in the state in Flowing Wells.
Salpointe trailed much of the game but pulled within 51-41 with 5 minutes left but Flowing Wells has too much talent and they went on to win 60-47.
Lyndsay Leikem scored 16, Shalise Fernander had 14 and Czarina Walker scored 13 for Flowing Wells. Michelle O’Connor scored 14, Brooke Prososki-Green had 13 and Haley Howell added 6 for Salpointe.
The next game featured rivals Palo Verde and Santa Rita in another overtime classic.
Palo Verde went up 67-63 with 1:03 left in the game but senior TJ Stoglin hit a free throw to pull within three points and then he tied it with a 3-pointer with 50.1 seconds left. Overtime.
With the game tied 71-71 with 1:48 left in overtime, Stoglin hit another 3-pointer to put Santa Rita up 74-71 and then freshman Itury Kitt made two free throws to widen the lead to 76-71 with 34.2 seconds left.
Seantre Luster-Smith scored a bucket with 18.7 seconds left to pull within three points and Palo Verde had a chance to tie the game at the end but the players lost track of what the score was and attacked the basket rather than shooting a 3-pointer. Santa Rita won 76-73.
Ezini Ugbisien had 17, Luster-Smith and Abe Navarro had 12 each and Derek Wilson had 11 for Palo Verde. Stoglin lead all scorers with 20, Keimon Sims and Kitt had 15 and Raekwon Davis had 14 for Santa Rita.
The Tucson High girls went up 15-6 on Dobson in the next game thanks to 8 points from Alexis Cortez but Tori Lloyd hit three back-back 3-pointers in a row to let everyone know just how good Dobson really is.
Tucson would later go over eight minutes without scoring and Dobson would lead 52-31 after three periods and would go on to win 71-49.
Cortez led all scorers with 29 points and Kyli McCorkle-Olbin had 9 for Tucson. Lloyd had 27.
Catalina Foothills beat Sabino 66-52 in the next game with Chaz Mack and Nehls scoring 18 points apiece with Dakota Kordsiemon adding 13 and Ryan McHenry 12. Sabino was led by Matt Bushman’s 16 with Jameson Sick and Darian Martin scoring 13.
Sean Miller’s son Austin Miller suited up for Foothills but did not make an appearance.
The final game featured another classic between Amphi and Nogales. Nogales appeared to have brought the whole town with them but it was the action on the court that stole the show.
Amphi went into the fourth up 39-38 but Nogales went on an 11-2 run to go up 49-41 with 3:10 left. Donald Selig scored three points and Yusuf Shehata hit a 3-pointer to make it 49-47 Nogales with 2:07 left.
Michael Perkins ties it up with two free throws moments later but Bryan Cervantes scored to retake the lead with 1:31 left and then Andres Marquez drove to the basket to put Nogales up by four at 53-49 with 33.3 seconds left.
Jose Mada nailed a 3-pointer with 7.7 seconds left to make it 53-52 and Cervantes was fouled but made only one free throw. Amphi had four seconds to tie or win but they could not get off a good shot – 54-52 Nogales.
Selig had 15 and Shehata had 14 for Amphi and Marquez poured in 26 for Nogales.
The Amphi/Nogales game was delayed for ten minutes after Tremaine Crowder suffered a cut above his eye…
Teams provided their own singers or bands for the National Anthem and several were excellent renditions but Sabino girl’s basketball coach Al Addleman brought along his three young daughters to sing before the Sabino boy’s game.
They proved to be a bit better than the other six performances. Addleman is also a voice coach….
Amphi recognized teacher Jennifer DeMello and her 29 years of service, CDO recognized police officer, coach and youth mentor Daniel Horetski and Foothills recognized retiring tennis coach Robb Salant.
Salant has guided the Falcons to all eight of their boy’s championships including a streak of seven in a row dating back to 2005. Salant also won a title at Rincon/UHS in 1989. Salant also won back-to-back singles title as a player for Catalina in 1962 and 1963.
Cholla recognized former Olympian and longtime educator Marcella Kitt (1964-Tokyo), Desert Christian recognized educator Ratna Konka, Dobson recognized community leader Janice Rodrigue, Empire recognized educator James Nelson, Flowing Wells recognized governing board member Gerald Long and Nogales recognized 30-year teacher and spirit coach Carolyn Hernandez.
Hernandez brought what must have been four busloads of stunt and cheerleader squads to the game to showcase just how good she is at her job.
Palo Verde recognized teacher and former coach David Gin, Sabino recognized longtime teacher and coach Douglas McSpadden, Salpointe recognized Sister Helen Rau, Santa Rita recognized 30-year educator David Honeycutt and Tucson recognized educator and coach Eric Watson.
Watson, an obvious local favorite, received the loudest applause from the stands when his name was announced.
Students Nick Fuentes of Santa Rita and Yael Kalen of Palo Verde won $500 college scholarships based on essays submitted.