After first battling back from a seven-point third quarter deficit, Tucson High School got clutch free throw shooting in the closing moments Wednesday night on its home court to win its first girls state playoff game in nine years.
RaTanya Newsome and Marisa Salazar went 2 for 2 apiece from the free throw line in the final 1:10 as No. 6 Tucson High held off No. 11 Chandler Basha 30-29 in the first round of the Class 5A Division I girls basketball playoffs.
It will be the first state quarterfinal appearance since the 2000 season for the Badgers.
“We worked hard for this. We deserve it,” said Salazar, a sophomore guard who gave Tucson High a 28-27 lead with her two free throws with 1:10 remaining in the fourth quarter, her only points of the game. “Free throws were the key. I got the steal and I was shocked. I got to the free throw line, I knew what I had to do for my team.”
With 43 seconds remaining, it was her teammate’s turn. Newsome, a junior, connected on both ends of a one-and-one to put Tucson High ahead 30-27, its largest lead of the night.
“It was an intense game,” Newsome said.
“We’ve practiced (free throws) all season long. Coach (Paul) Reed tells us that turnovers and free throws win games.”
Basha’s Kaela Oakes, who led her team with 11 points, pulled Basha within 30-29 on two free throws with 30 seconds to play.
Tucson High (24-2) had been averaging 59.9 points per game this season, but it was stymied by the Basha’s defense and scored just 11 first-half points on Wednesday.
The Badgers were led by eight points apiece from Newsome and Nalani Barnes.
“It feels good and I’m happy for the girls,” Reed said. “To be down by seven in the second half and not give up, was a joy to see.”
Things won’t be easy for Tucson High in Friday’s quarterfinals.
The Badgers play on the road at No. 3 Mesa Mountain View, a team that beat Tucson High 42-28 in the Martin Luther King Basketball Classic at the McKale Center on Jan. 19.
Tucson High has won 11 straight games since being held to a season-low 28 points in the Mesa Mountain View loss and has averaged more than 60 points per game since.
No. 3 Mesa Mountain View 48, No. 14 Sierra Vista Buena 27: At Mesa Mountain View, Buena saw its season come to an end with a 17-13 record.
Class 5A Division II
No. 3 Surprise Valley Vista 71, No. 14 Ironwood Ridge 45: At Surprise Valley Vista, despite finishing 10-13 this season, the Nighthawks won the 5A Southern II region championship as a No. 1 seed.
No. 6 Kingman 56, No. 11 Rincon/University 45: At Kingman, Marqusha Corley scored a team-high 16 points and Alyssa Mort scored 10, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the 37 combined points from Kingman’s Telsa Morgan and Lindsey Reed.
A 19-8 second quarter for Kingman extended a two-point lead to 13 at the half and the home team cruised in the second half.
Rincon/University ends its season 11-10 and finished second in the 5A-II Southern Region.