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Agua Fria girls hoops beat Verrado 32-26
Submitted by Shane McOwen on Wed, 01/11/2017 - 12:00am
Lady Owls down district rival in region opener
Agua Fria hosted Verrado in each team’s girls basketball region opener Jan. 6, with the Lady Owls coming away with a key 32-26 victory.
Sophomores Sophia Dunne and Tynica Gilmore, as well as freshman Brooke Rodgers, did the heavy lifting for Agua Fria (11-5), helping pull the Lady Owls out of a first-quarter deficit on the way to victory over Verrado (8-8).
Dunne finished with a game-high 10 points, while Gilmore and Rodgers added eight and six points, respectively.
“Give it to Verrado,” Agua Fria coach Sam Polvino said. “They came to play. They got up early on us, but we were able to plug back in and take the lead, and then opened it up.”
Verrado grabbed an 8-7 lead after the first quarter and hit a 3-pointer to open the second, before giving up an 11-0 Lady Owls run to close out the half. Agua Fria led by as much as 13 before Verrado cut the lead down in the fourth.
Verrado coach Vernon Beard said his team wasn’t able to practice over the winter break because of extenuating circumstances, and it showed on the court against Agua Fria.
“It looked like we hadn’t practiced in 15 days,” Beard said. “We had a lot of rust, a lot of rust. That’s no excuse, but that’s what my take is out of it. I don’t think we played down, were scared, anything of that nature, we just hadn’t practiced some things. We’ve got to get back to playing Lady Viper basketball.”
Both teams struggled with turnovers throughout, particularly affecting Verrado in the second and third quarters. The Lady Vipers stalled completely, failing to register a point over an 8-minute, 40-second stretch from early in the second quarter to early in the third.
“We were missing shots I normally feel we can make,” Beard said.
Polvino said his team also missed opportunities on the offensive end because of turnovers.
“We’re very young,” he said. “We’re starting two freshmen and three sophomores. [Defensive] pressure is getting to us. We had 37 turnovers. A lot of them were at crunch time, and that’s because we’re young.”
Verrado made it tough on the hosts in the fourth quarter, but didn’t have enough firepower to take the lead. Agua Fria was held to just four points in the final frame. Polvino was proud of the effort the girls had to close out the game, he said.
“When you’re playing a good game like this, it’s got to be fun,” he said. “That’s what it should be. Good games are fun to be in. I think the kids learn a lot from those.”
Verrado’s Nicole Castellanos and Aliza Zuniga were the team’s joint leading scorers with nine apiece. Imani Crawford-King and Ebony Johnson each added three for the Lady Vipers.
Beard is confident the Lady Vipers will be able to shake off the winter-break rust and make a run in region play, he said.
“I think once we get our basketball legs back under us, we should be able to make a run to challenge Agua Fria,” he said. “I think Desert Edge will be tough, as well as everybody else in our region for that matter, but I think we’ll be a better team [when we see them]. That’s all you can do. You can’t really say anything about the other team. It’s about can we play and do the things we’re supposed to do.”
Polvino said playing each region opponent twice is an interesting wrinkle to this season. In previous years, each region team played another only once.
“It’s going to be a challenge to go through everybody twice, but we’re looking forward to it,” Polvino said. “I love the kids that we have this year. They work hard in practice. Games should be fun for them, and I think it is.”
Agua Fria faced Phoenix Deer Valley Tuesday. The result was not available at press time. The Lady Owls travel to Lake Havasu for a region game Thursday, before ending the week on the road Friday against rival Desert Edge.
Verrado faced Glendale Independence Monday, winning 53-44, and Lake Havasu Tuesday, but the result was not available at press time. The Lady Vipers travel to Phoenix Barry Goldwater Thursday for a region contest.
Shane McOwen can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ShaneMcOwen.
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