Monthly Archives: November 2003

high schools

Cobras eye another basketball state title run

by Jason Stone

Cactus might have been one knee injury away from running the table in 4A last year.
The Cobras took an undefeated record all the way to the 4A semifinals before losing starting point guard Jamie Nesbit with a knee injury in the Wells Fargo Region championship game.
Suffice it to say, the Cobras will be ultra-motivated entering the season, but so will a host of other local 4A teams.
Glendale High continued its resurgence by advancing all the way to the state tournament quarterfinals, while Independence also made state before losing to Cactus in the first round.
Here is a preview of local 4A teams:
APOLLO finished second in the regular season race in the Desert Sky Region last year despite a losing record. The Hawks missed the playoffs, however, when they lost to Independence in the region tournament.
That should fire up Apollo, which has two starters back, including defensive stopper Sally Mollon, who racked up four steals a game last year.
CACTUS is once again loaded and should be the favorite to unseat two-time 4A defending state champion Thunderbird, the team that beat Cactus in the Final Four.
Nesbit is healthy and 6-foot-5 senior Ashley Sours is back with her 16 points and 11 rebound averages from a year ago.
Sours and Nesbit became the first juniors to reach the career 1,000-point mark last year.
Providing depth for the Cobras are senior Elise Benadom, sophmore Chelsi Roberts, junior Naomi Nolte and freshman Rebecca Tobin.
GLENDALE coach Eddie Lopez enters his fourth season as Cardinals coach with the program on solid footing.
The team went 18-10 last year and finished second in the Skyline Region behind state champion Thunderbird.
Three starters are back this year, including leading returning scorer Sarah Staggs. Staggs also leads all returners in rebounds and blocks — and she did it all as a freshman.
In all, five lettermen return, including senior Jackie Gutierrez and senior Destiny Echols.
Lopez needs to compensate for the losses of All-Region players Renita Bradford, Cielo Steward and Charisma Washington.
INDEPENDENCE made it to the state playoffs despite having a losing record last year. First-team All-Region pick Ebony Hill is gone, but second-teamer Emma Fuentes, the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder, is back.

Published at glendalestar.com • Nov. 26, 2003

high schools

Comeback Cobras repay Centennial

by Jason Stone

When playoff seedings were released the day after Cactus lost the Wells Fargo Region championship to Centennial Nov. 7, the Cobras knew they would have a chance for redemption in the second round if both teams won their playoff openers.
The Cobras did just that last week, returning the favor with a 35-28 victory — the same score they lost by the first time — to earn a spot in the semifinals of the 4A playoffs.
Using a dramatic last-minute comeback, including a 50-yard onside kick, the Cobras upset Centennial to secure a shot at playing for a state championship game appearance.
Cactus will face Washington tomorrow night at Glendale Community College. If the Cobras win, they will make the championship game for the first time since 1987 and third time ever.
Cactus is 0-2 in state title games.
Quarterback and kicker Bubba Bradley kicked the game-tying field goal last week with 53 seconds to go, and the Cobras won it seconds later after recovering an onside kick deep in Centennial territory.

Published at glendalestar.com • Nov. 26, 2003

high schools

Local girls basketball teams talented

by Jason Stone

The Skyhawks ruled the roost, but the Eagles went farther in 2002-03.
Deer Valley entered last year’s state playoffs as the No. 1 seed from the Northwest Region, but the Skyhawks lost their first game at state.
Ironwood, meanwhile, took second in the region but advanced all the way to the quarterfinals.
And do not forget Mountain Ridge, which also made state.
With Ironwood shipped off to a new region this year, however, the battle for 5A supremacy in Glendale is wide open.
Here is a preview of local 5A teams:
DEER VALLEY lost key players from last year’s region title team, but still returns three All-Region picks from a year ago.
Charlieann Chacon is coming off a great freshman season and should be the team’s leader in ’03-’04.
Seniors Jessica Burkes and Jena Bueno can be counted on for leadership, while coach Bill Gollihare can count on Meghan MacCleary and Nicole Ennis for depth.
IRONWOOD came close to winning a state championship two years ago, but injuries to key players slowed the Eagles last year.
Fortunately for coach Rob Contrata, his 13th year with the team should be competitive again with a handful of returning players back.
Forward Lindsey Rinke, point guard Serena Marshall and guard/forward Rachel Majewski all return for the Eagles, which finished 25-8 last year.
Six lettermen in all return, helping to make up for the loss of the graduated Kelly Schmidt, one of the top players in Eagles history.
MOUNTAIN RIDGE has two starters and five lettermen returning from last year’s state qualifying team, but the Mountain Lions are attempting to replace its leading scorer and play-maker.
Shanna McKenna shared Northwest Region Player of the Year honors with Schmidt of Ironwood, but graduated to open a big void. Shelby Stiner, another first-team All-Region pick is also gone. That puts added pressure on the backcourt tandem of junior Jackie Black and senior Erin Grabski, who will be counted on heavily to get the Lions back to the state tournament.

Published at glendalestar.com • Nov. 26, 2003

high schools

Amazing finish lifts Cactus to semifinals

by Jason Stone

Prior to last Friday’s playoff showdown between Cactus and Centennial, Cobra fans taped a banner to the bleachers that read, “We will win the one that counts.”
What seemed like a cocky pregame boast turned into a cruel reality for Centennial.
In a game with all the hype of a heavyweight title fight, Cactus avenged a loss to Centennial two weeks ago with a dramatic and miraculous 35-28 win in the 4A quarterfinals.
The Cobras will now play Washington in tomorrow’s semifinals at Glendale Community College with a chance at playing for the state championship Dec. 6 on the line.
4c50a0ccc9193.image“We couldn’t lose this game,” said Cactus quarterback and kicker Bubba Bradley, who tied the game with a 50-yard field goal with 53 seconds left in the game and drove Cactus to the winning touchdown seconds later after the Cobras got the ball on an onside kick 50 yards down the field.
Centennial beat Cactus by the same score in the final game of the regular season to claim the Wells Fargo Region championship for the second time ever.
But the Cobras repaid the Coyotes on Centennial’s field with an ending people will talk about for years.
Down 28-25 with three minutes to go, Bradley drove the Cobras from their own 20 to Centennial’s 46 where Cactus faced a fourth-and-1 play. Instead of trying for a 63-yard-field goal attempt — Bradley tried a 62-yarder in the first half — Cactus drew Centennial offside to keep the drive alive.
The Cobras got the ball down to the 33, and on fourth-and-2, Cactus coach Larry Fetkenhier elected to try the field goal, which Bradley made to tie the score.
On the ensuing kickoff, Bradley sent a floating, arching kick that began drifting toward the sideline.
With Centennial players yelling at returner Bryan Haynes to let the ball bounce out of bounds, Haynes backed away from the ball in confusion.
Cactus’ Bobby Parks sprinted down the sideline and grabbed the ball, which bounced straight up in the air instead of continuing out of bounds.
After referees debated the call, Cactus was awarded it at the 13. Two plays later, Nigel Ricks ran it in from 12 yards out for the game-winning score.
“I guess you can say the team is in shock,” Centennial coach Richard Taylor said.
“Our kids have a lot of character. And Cactus showed a strong will.”
The dramatic, and sometimes confusing ending, capped a close, back-and-forth game from the start.
Unlike the last game when Centennial jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first three minutes of the game, Cactus scored first.
Richard Lobo picked off a pass on Centennial’s first drive and that turned into a 45-yard field goal for Bradley.
Lobo then gave the ball back when he muffed a punt return and Centennial recovered at the 8. A play later, Terry Longbons ran the ball into the end zone to give Centennial a 7-3 lead.
Cactus came right back, however, with an eight-play, 52-yard scoring drive on its next possession, ending in a 9-yard pass from Bradley to Kevin Marin.
The scoring continued as soon as Centennial got the ball. On its second play from the 10-yard line, Coyotes quarterback Joe Caskey hit a streaking Haynes for a 90-yard touchdown pass to put Centennial back up 14-10.
Bradley missed long field goals or 57 and 62 later in the half, but the Cobras intercepted Caskey two more times before halftime.
Bradley fumbled on Cactus’ first possession of the second half, and it appeared lethal for the Cobras.
A 23-yard run by Marcus House and a 23-yard pass completion from Caskey to Joel Johnson set up a 10-yard TD gallop for Longbons.
The score and extra point gave Centennial a 21-10 lead and all the momentum with seven minutes left in the third quarter.
But a long kickoff return set up Cactus at the Centennial 41 and a 30-yard pass from Bradley to Willie Brumbaugh on the first play set up a Bradley 1-yard TD plunge.
Ricks took the ball in for the 2-point conversion and the score became 21-18, Centennial.
Mike Phillips then turned in a game-changing play. The senior linebacker picked off a low, floating pass from Cactus at the Centennial 35, and with no tacklers in front of him, rumbled the distance into the end zone to give Cactus a 25-21 lead.
Centennial failed on a fake punt on fourth down on its next possession and Bradley missed a 42-yard field goal as the game entered the fourth quarter.
Centennial then marched down the field on an impressive nine-play, 80-yard drive that took up 4½ minutes off the clock.
A defensive holding play on fourth-and-4 kept the drive alive and Longbons scored his third touchdown of the night from 4 yards out to give Centennial the 28-25 lead with 6:43 left in the game.
The Coyotes forced Cactus to punt on the next drive and Centennial got the ball back with five minutes left with the chance to run out the clock.
But Cactus’ Tyler Schmitt sacked Caskey for a 9-yard loss, forcing Centennial to punt. That sequence led to the drive that ended with Bradley kicking the tying field goal, which appeared to send the game to overtime.

Published at glendalestar.com • Nov. 26, 2003

high schools

Final minute was one to remember for Cactus

by Jason Stone

For Cactus and Centennial fans, the final minutes of last week’s game was an excruciating exercise in heart management.
In a contest that featured four lead changes, six turnovers and a few head-scratching calls from the officials, fans of both sides had to be reaching for the heartburn medicine after the game.
The craziness started with a little more than a minute to go when Centennial’s defense jumped offsides to allow a Cactus drive to continue on fourth down.
The play led to Bubba Bradley’s game-tying 50-yard field goal, four plays later, making the score deadlocked with 53 seconds to go.
Instead of squib kicking the kickoff to avoid a long gain for Centennial’s speedy return men, Bradley lofted a high kick that drifted toward out of bounds, bounced toward the end line, and skipped back into the field of play.
An alert Bobby Parks raced down the field amd scooped the ball up, causing a raucous celebration on the Cactus sideline and stands.
But Bryan Haynes, the Centennial returner who let the ball bounce before picking it up, argued with officials that the ball hit out of bounds and should be Centennial’s ball at the 35.
Officials then threw a flag, causing Cactus fans to quieten and Centennial’s side to burst out in celebration.
After the officials conferred and decided to wave off the flag, Cactus’ side once again erupted into joyous cheers.
“Sometimes you see things you want to see,” Centennial coach Richard Taylor said, explaining the play.
After Cactus received the ball at the Centennial 13 the drama did not end, althought it appeared Cactus was setting up a sure win.
Running back Nigel Ricks raced toward the end zone, but as he crossed the goal line, the ball came lose and Centennial recovered.
After another discussion between the officials, it was ruled the touchdown was good, clinching the victory for Cactus.
“We just wanted to get the ball in the end zone,” Bradley said. “We had to win this game.”

Published at glendalestar.com • Nov. 26, 2003