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Titans’ center anchors victory

Citizen Staff Writer and Freelance
TC Varsity



Palo Verde turned to its half-court defense early and freshman center Darian Saunders late.

The combination led the Titans girls basketball team to a 63-47 win Tuesday over Gila Gila Region rival Catalina in the first round of the Class 4A Division I state tournament.

“We were able to do the things that got us here,” said coach Erick Brock, whose Palo Verde team earned the tournament’s No. 4 seed. ” We weren’t getting the job done with our full-court press so we turned to our half court. That paid the bills for us.”

So did the 6-foot-1 Saunders, who was dominant with 16 points, 17 rebounds and six blocked shots.

Saunders had nine of her 16 points in the fourth quarter.

“She played pretty big,” Brock said. “The nice thing is that it takes people to get her the ball. We had our guards outside dropping passes inside to her and picking up easy assists. We had three girls with four or more assists. That speaks volumes. Darian is the one who finished the play, but it takes someone to start it.”

Catalina, the No. 13 seed, cut the lead to nine, 46-37, in the fourth, but that was the closest it got down the stretch.

“I don’t know if I give their trap as much credit as us having lapses and not doing what we were coached to do,” said Catalina coach Jim Lawwill. “We got tentative. You have to give the credit for that because they bring the pressure.”

Catalina was paced by Jasmine Grant, who scored a game-high 20 points.

Palo Verde will host No. 5 Cottonwood Mingus at 7 p.m. Friday in the 4A-II quarterfinals.

No. 2 Chandler Seton Catholic 71, No. 15 Sahuarita 39: At Seton Catholic, the 17 points scored by Ivana “Moose” Vidal were not enough for the Mustangs to keep their season alive.

Sahuarita ended with a 14-14 record.

No. 8 Douglas 51, No. 9 Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain 46: At Douglas, Erika Tapia led Douglas with 18 points.

The Bulldogs advanced to play in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Class 4A Division I

No. 9 Prescott 66, No. 8 Cienega 61: At Cienega, Prescott’s Paige Ramm led all scorers with 23 points leading her team to the 4A-I quarterfinals.

“It was a tough game,” Cienega coach Rob Harrison said. “The girls’ effort was there. Prescott just kept eating away at us. Their size hurt us and they got some easy baskets down low.”

Cienega, which this season won its first 4A Kino Region regular season title, closed to within three points, 64-61, with 38 seconds left, but those were the team’s final points.

Alyssa Deal led Cienega with 21 points.

“We fought hard,” said Cienega’s Megan Placencia, who scored 20 points. “We were going to run them and that was the plan. I have to tip my hat to Paige (Ramm). She’s great. We fought hard and that’s all you can do. We left it all on the floor.”

No. 1 Canyon del Oro 60, No. 16 Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor 38: At Canyon del Oro, Sydney Lewis led the Dorados with 18 points.

Trailing 14-8 after the first quarter, CDO outscored O’Connor 52-24 over the next three quarters to win going away and advance to Friday’s quarterfianals, when it will host No. 9 Prescott at 7 p.m.

No. 4 Phoenix Shadow Mountain 62, No. 13 Nogales 43: At Shadow Mountain, Nogales fell behind 38-17 in the first half and couldn’t recover.

Prissy Heredia led the Apaches with 14 points. Nogales finished with a 15-12 record.

No. 6 Sahuaro 56, No. 11 Peoria 37: At Sahuaro, Cashala Thompson led the Cougars with 14 points and senior Ashley Walls scored nine points and pulled down 10 rebounds.

Sahuaro advances to Friday’s quarterfinal round, when it will travel to play at No. 3 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows.

No. 7 Glendale Apollo 60, No. 10 Catalina Foothills 50: At Apollo, Keara Dunshee’s team-high 12 points were not enough to keep Catalina Foothills in the game on the road.

Foothills ended its season 21-10.

5A-I Southern Region

Salpointe 41, Casa Grande 32: At Mountain View High School, Jessica Miller scored a game-high 16 points to lead Salpointe to Thursday’s 5A-I Southern Region semifinal vs. Sierra Vista Buena.

High school sports editor Geoff Grammer contributed to this article.

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