It wasn’t pretty. It was far from perfect. Still, No. 13 Sahuaro found just enough to get past No. 20 Notre Dame Wednesday night in the first round of the Division II state playoffs.
The 42-38 final score was a lot closer than how the game played out but a win is a win in the post season and the Cougars (22-5) survived to play another day and will advance to the second round to play at No. 4 Tucson (25-3) Friday night.
Sydney Harden led the way against Notre Dame with 13 points, 10 rebounds and an incredible eight blocked shots. Harden also set the Sahuaro career scoring record on a couple of free throws in the third quarter. She sits at 1,547 points, three points more than Cashala Thompson’s previous career record of 1,544.
Sahuaro Career Scoring Leaders
1,547 Sydney Harden 2012-16 (Current)
1,544 Cashala Thompson 2007-11
1,408 Michelle Vielledent 1989-93
1,293 Kelliann Glowacka 1996-99
1,227 Logan Hall 2004-08
1,218 Katie Bruns 1996-00
1,184 Vanessa Lemmon 2002-06
Thompson’s father is former University of Arizona basketball standout Harvey Thompson and Harden’s grandfather, Gene Moore, also played for the Wildcats. Thompson has the distinction of playing for Fred Snowden, Ben Lindsey and Lute Olson while Moore played for Bruce Larson. Hold on, Larson’s granddaughter Kendal plays for Sahuaro.
Notre Dame (11-14) went without standout guard Lauren Loven. Loven, a Denver commit, was on a personal trip and was unavailable. One would have to think what the outcome might have been had the 3-star recruit been available.
Sahuaro built a 13-9 lead with 2:02 left in the first but followed that up with 11 straight trips up the court without a bucket. Reazsha Benjamin broke the drought on a 3-pointer with 4:32 left in the second. As it turned out, Notre Dame also came up empty and only scored two points from 3:21 left in the third till 1:40 left in the second.
Still, Sahuaro only led 22-15 at the half and 31-24 after three. Notre Dame standout Sarah Metli finished with 16 points to keep the Saints in the game and fellow sophomore Anneleisaa Lugay added nine but the Cougars always managed to stay just out of striking distance.
Benjamin scored 16 points to lead Sahuaro. The combination of Benjamin and Harden proved too much for Notre Dame especially underneath where the Cougars dominated to make up for an off night from beyond the arc.
Loven is one of eight 3-star recruits in Arizona and Tucson senior Alexis Cortez is part of that group of elite athletes.
Cortez, like Harden, is also chasing an incredible scoring record. Already one of the best to ever play in Arizona, Cortez is only 20 points away from a top-five spot and 42 away from 2,500 points.
Arizona Career Scoring Leaders: Girls (ABCA)
1 Julie Brase, Catalina Foothills (2,913) 1994-1998
2 Kayla Pedersen, Red Mountain (2,611) 2003-2007
3 Christina Wirth, Seton Catholic (2,550) 2001-2005
4 Ashley Wirtzberger, Yuma Catholic/Gila Bend (2,505) 2006–2010
5 Nicole Powell, Mountain Pointe (2,478) 1996-2000
6 Alexis Cortez, Tucson (2,458) 2012-2016
7 Olivia Snyder, Green Fields (2,382) 2009-2013
Tucson beat Sahuaro 54-48 in January and the Badgers are riding a seven-game win streak. The winner of Sahuaro and Tucson will face either No. 12 Ironwood Ridge (23-7) or No. 5 Mesa (25-4) next Tuesday in the quarterfinals.
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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here, on AZPreps365.com and on the pages of the Vail Voice and the Tanque Verde Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com