The Sinagua girls basketball team put on a scoring and defensive exhibition in the third quarter en route to a 61-32 victory over Flagstaff in the Grand Canyon Region tournament semifinals Tuesday morning at the Skydome.
The Mustangs, who led 26-19 at the half, gave up the first points of the third stanza on a Marlena Aranda bucket. From that point on, the Mustangs looked invincible
They used a 16-0 run to close out the third and scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to pull ahead 48-21.
Aranda's stickback off a missed free throw ended the Mustangs' big spurt seconds later, but the Mustangs cruised to victory, leading by more than 20 the rest of the way.
The Mustangs forced 21 turnovers. Their speedy players played tight, pressure defense and turned Flagstaff miscues into points in transition.
"(Legendary UCLA coach) John Wooden talked about quickness as being the greatest asset in basketball," Flagstaff coach Mike Moran said, "and, boy, they've got it. They're not only quick, but intelligent players. Jessica (Vargas) is one of the best basketball players I've seen. She anticipates, she reads and she's way ahead of us speed-wise."
Junior point guard Kiki Locket scored 14 points to lead the Mustangs, while Savannah Yonnie had 10, Vargas nine, Erica Williams and Kristin McGuire eight apiece and Katie Pavlich six.
The Mustangs ran the floor well and spread the scoring among eight players.
After the game, Mustangs senior Chelsea Begay flashed a million-dollar smile as she expressed what it means to advance to the next round.
"It feels great, really great," she said. "We had a good game. We came out with fire and it was just a pretty good game."
Mustangs coach Jennifer Parker, who used her bench players early and often in this win, now prepares her team to face Page in Friday's region tourney championship game.
"The girls were upbeat afterward, looking forward to playing Page again and just try to keep momentum going as we head into the state tournament," Parker said.
"I expect it to be the same. I expect it to be close," she added, analyzing Friday's game. "Every possession is huge. It's going to be the team that does the little things well that's going to come out on top."
Locket, for one, is ready for the challenge.
"Page is always a good team," Locket said. "They are always ready. I just think we need to come out as a team and give 100 percent and play hard and I think we might be OK."
The Mustangs improved their defensive rebounding in the second half against FHS, limiting their rival's second-chance opportunities, which was a point of emphasis at halftime, Parker said.
Kelsey Schaeffer had 19 points to lead the Eagles.
"We really pushed her to go to her left (her weaker side), and we really put a lot of pressure on her with trapping her and everything," Begay said of the Eagles' top offensive players.
Though it was a one-sided loss, Moran will use this game as a learning tool for his team in the future.
"Both Page and Sinagua when they crank it up on us, defensive intensity, we have a real hard time moving the ball," Moran said.
"We're growing and maturing and getting better, but Sinagua's a powerhouse. … We've got to put these things in perspective," Moran said. "Those how we use it — as a lesson. And we're learning from the best and we're getting better. But we are clearly the third-best team in the league and we have to prove it one more time again on Friday."
The Eagles face Mingus in Friday's third-place game at 1 p.m. at the Skydome.
The top three teams in each regional tournament qualify for the Class 4A, Division II state tournament, which begins next Tuesday.
Sinagua 61, Flagstaff 32
Flagstaff 6 13 2 11 — 32
Sinagua 14 12 16 19 — 61
Flagstaff — Milton 0 0-1 0, Caballero 0 1-2 1, Schaeffer 7 4-6 19, Jones 1 0-0 2, Paddock 1 0-0 2, Aranda 4 0-0 8. Totals: 13 5-9 32.
Sinagua — Locket 7 0-0 14, Yonnie 3 2-2 10, Williams 3 2-3 8, Vargas 2 5-6 9, Gorman 1 0-0 2, Pavlich 3 0-0 6, McGuire 4 0-0 8, Bavasi 0 0-2 0, Begay 2 0-0 4. Totals: 25 9-13 61.
3-point goals — Flagstaff 1 (Schaeffer 1), Sinagua 2 (Yonnie 2). Total fouls: Flagstaff 9, Sinagua 16. Technical fouls: none. Fouled out: none.
PAGE 62, MINGUS 24
Playing stifling, opportunistic defense, the top-seeded Sand Devils trounced the Marauders in the evening semifinal.
This one was a rout from the get-go.
The Sand Devils led 13-2 after one quarter and 29-4 at halftime. Mingus reached the double-digit mark on Natalie Johnson's inside basket late in the third quarter. That made it 40-10, Page.
The Sand Devils took their biggest lead of the game, 56-14, on a pair of Natasha Begay free throws at the 7:24 mark of the final period.
Begay scored a game-high 17 points. Nine of her teammates also put points on the board, including Raynell Holgate (nine), Tamika Howard and Brendonna Greymountain (eight apiece), Meliya Collins (seven) and T.J. Manson (five).
"Our defensive effort was there from the start," Page coach Mike Beall said. "We didn't shoot the ball well early, but I thought we heated up a little bit."
The Sand Devils forced 21 turnovers.
"I think our defensive pressure, when we picked them up at halfcourt, hurt 'em because they couldn't get in their offense," Beall said. "They didn't turn the ball over a whole lot, they just couldn't get in their whole offense.
"Then our press definitely shook them up a little bit and then they didn't hit any shots early and they got down early, and I think for them that was very frustrating."
Natalie Webb's eight points led the Marauders. No other Marauder had more than four points.
"Page is tough," Mingus coach Susan Holm said. "They shoot the ball well. They pressure us well. They know our weaknesses and they capitalize on it well. It wasn't that we just played cruddy.
"We didn't play well, but we played a great team, so we learned from that."
Page is on a roll entering the GCR tourney final, having won 13 of its last 14 games. Its only loss during that stretch was a 59-57 setback at Sinagua Jan. 10.
"I don't know if you take any momentum in against Sinagua, and I don't know if they take any in against us," Beall said.
Beall noted that both teams are capable of making big comebacks, citing his team's rallying from 18 down in its Jan. 10 loss and Sinagua, which overcame a 13-point halftime deficit in its 50-43 loss at Page Jan. 27.
Asked what to expect in the title game Friday, Beall had this to say:
"Same old, same old. I think both teams will play hard, I think both teams will make mistakes (and) both teams will do some good things. It may come down to free-throw shooting. It may come down to rebounding.
"You never know. I'm sure it'll be exciting, though."
Mingus 2 2 10 10 — 24
Page 13 16 23 10 — 62
Mingus — Johnson 1 0-0 2, Webb 4 0-0 8, Hagberg 1 0-2 2, Krammi 1 0-2 2, Banuelos 1 0-0 2, Islas 2 0-2 4, Gyce 2 0-0 4. Totals: 12 0-6 24.
Page — Bitsilly 1 0-0 2, Collins 3 0-0 7, Howard 3 0-0 8, L. Wilson 0 1-2 1, McCabe 1 0-1 3, Greymountain 3 0-0 8, Holgate 3 2-5 9, Conley 1 0-0 2, Begay 6 5-5 17, Manson 2 1-3 5. Totals: 23 9-16 62.
3-point goals — Mingus 0, Page 7 (Howard 2, Greymountain 2, Collins 1, McCabe 1, Holgate 1). Technical fouls: none. Fouled out: none.
Due to using an ineligible player in Monday's game, Coconino's 46-33 win against Mingus in the GCR tourney quarterfinals was overturned.
League coaches and athletic directors met to discuss the matter Monday morning. They also consulted with Arizona Interscholastic Association officials to determine whether the game had to be forfeited.
Holm was at the Skydome for the meeting, so she called the school and had the Marauder players paged by the school secretary — just in the nick of time.
"We were just turning in our uniforms, so all of them had their uniforms already," Holm said. "It was just a matter of them getting their shoes and socks."
Of course, the Mingus players were thrilled to have their season extended.
"They were so excited to play," Holm said.
Ed Odeven can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2251.