NJCAA REGION I TOURNAMENT
CHAMPIONSHIP: SATURDAY, MARCH 5
No. 2 Mesa at No. 1 Pima, 7:30 p.m.
Pima (24-7) is led by freshman guards Sydni Stallworth (Palo Verde) and Denesia Smith (Cienega) along with sophomore forwards Shalise Fernander (Flowing Wells) and Taylor Blue. Sophomore guard Gabby Banales (Cienega) provides the outside shot while freshman guard Erin Peterson (Catalina Foothills) is the top defender.
Stallworth was named ACCAC Division II Player of the Year. She was also chosen first team All-ACCAC and first team All-Region I, Division II. She led the team in scoring with 15.7 points per game and was also named ACCAC Division II Player of the Week four times and earned NJCAA Division II National Player of the Week honors.
Smith was named second team All-ACCAC and first team All-Region I, Division II. She averaged 11.6 points a game and also earned ACCAC Division II Player of the Week honors.
Fernander was named third team All-ACCAC and second team All-Region I, Division II. She averaged 9.9 points and 6.5 rebounds a game.
In addition, head coach Todd Holthaus received his second Coach of the Year honor this year.
Pima defeated No. 4 Scottsdale 78-50 in the first round of the playoffs Tuesday night. Fernander scored a game-high 20 points and Stallworth scored 18. Fernander also picked up 11 rebounds and Peterson had five.
The Aztecs beat Mesa 76-69 on Dec. 12 at home and 71-65 at Mesa on Feb. 10.
The Thunderbirds were the 2014 DII national champions. This year, Mesa (16-15) defeated No. 3 Phoenix College 57-42 to advance to the Region I championship game against Pima.
Natalie Stilwell led Mesa with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Janessa Aukward scored 10 and Briana Clah added 11. Clah earned two ACCAC DII Player of the Week honors and was placed on the All-Region I, Division II first team and the All-ACCAC first team this year while Aukward was placed on the All-ACCAC third team.
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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