The SCA Varsity Girls' Basketball Team faced the Benson High School Bobcats after a lengthy, but very comfortable, bus ride in a 2A Conference State Tournament Sweet Sixteen matchup in Southern Arizona.
Coach Alan Mitchell sent out a starting lineup comprised of senior Kathryn Dick (#35) with juniors Brooke Hancock, (#4), Baylee Tobin (#21), Savannah Cardona (#22) and Lily Richardson (#44) for this win-or-go-home game to determine who would advance to the Elite Eight of the Arizona Tournament.
Facing a bigger, stronger team in an environment new to the entire squad, the Eagles were not intimidated. Rather, under the calm direction of Lily Richardson, SCA set about moving the ball and probing the Bobcats’ defenses for weaknesses. Lengthy possessions on offense and strong helpside work on defense were the themes the Eagles would emphasize, resulting in Baylee Tobin converting under duress in the power slot. Quick hands from Savannah Cardona on defense translated into free throws after the break as SCA took a slim lead, and the Eagles began to trap to the ball in the corners on defense to narrow the Bobcats’ options. Both Kathryn Dick and then Savannah Cardona rose up in their defenders’ faces to hit the three after extended ball movement on offense, and then SCA broke the press for Lily Richardson to hit a wide open Baylee Tobin as the Bobcats fell behind, but then evened the scores with scoring in the paint and from the charity stripe. Junior Allyson Lund (#11) provided combative inside help against the athletic Benson squad, and Lily Richardson drove her defender inside to score the go-ahead points as the Eagles led 13-11 at the end of the first period.
Sophomore Ana Faustinos (#32) entered the game to provide additional ball security in the second quarter, but the Eagles endured a long dry spell, getting nice looks in the low post and short corner, but failing to convert any of them. Meanwhile the Bobcats worked their height and power advantages to methodically score inside and more than four minutes elapsed until Brooke Hancock hit Baylee Tobin on a long outlet pass to get the scorers' table into operation for the visitors once again. Behind by three, Baylee Tobin swept up the first of her five steals, and Savannah Cardona turned her own takeaway into transition points as SCA clanked back into life on offense. Kathryn Dick began to take her defender to the basket with regularity to score floaters and layups in the half-court offense, Brooke Hancock converted an uncontested shot in transition, and the Eagles swept into the lead for good, 21-18 at the half.
In the third period, Lily Richardson again directed traffic on offense, finding Kathryn Dick for the corner three to open the scoring, then combining with Savannah Cardona on defense to make life on the ball miserable for the Bobcat guards seeking to initiate plays. Pressure from these two led to looping passes that Baylee Tobin knocked away or intercepted repeatedly, providing more time on the ball for the Eagles. Kathryn Dick pounded the rim from the three-point line for several possessions in a row, as the Bobcats sought to keep the ball out of Savannah Cardona’s hot hands, but eventually SCA’s good ball movement provided her with an open look on the wing, and she knocked down the trey, followed by a second on the following possession. Lily Richardson fed Brooke Hancock in the post for a deuce, Kathryn Dick swept through the lane for the finger-tip roll-off, and suddenly the Eagles were up by 13 points. The Bobcats traded baskets for Kathryn Dick free throws, and the third quarter ended with a commanding 38-26 SCA lead.
The Benson squad flexed their muscles early in the final period, pushing the ball inside to score from the power slot and the free throw line in a strong comeback. On the other end, however, the Bobcats had no answer for Kathryn Dick’s fake-and-drive game, nor could their perimeter defense hold Savannah Cardona for very long from three-point range. Despite the parade of free throws enjoyed by the Benson players, Brooke Hancock’s active hands to collect and convert loose balls kept the Eagles ahead, and free-throw shooting by Kathryn Dick, capped off by Ana Faustinos’ dagger three in front of the Eagles' bench finished off the hopes of the hosts as SCA progressed to the quarterfinals competition, 49-44.
Join the SCA Varsity Girls' Basketball Team as they journey north on Saturday evening, March 13 to Payson, Arizona in the Class 2A State Tournament at 7:00PM where they will face the Sedona High School Scorpions, the team that eliminated the Eagles from last year’s tournament.
See the State Tournament brackets at AZPreps here: https://www.azpreps365.com/brackets/basketball-girls/2a/968-2021-aia-girls-basketball-2a-state-championship