The improbable run of the Camp Verde High girls basketball team finally reached its peak this past weekend. Unfortunately, it was one game short of playing for a title, as Wilcox High ended all hopes of a Cowboy championship at Shadow Mountain High on Saturday, Feb. 21, beating them 62-43.
“We had them pretty well scouted out. Again, we made some dumb mistakes and it cost us,” 12th-year Camp Verde head coach Mark Showers said.
Winning 20-plus games and placing the Cowboy name in the championship hat of fate every season seems to be the norm in Camp Verde, and despite being denied a title in the past four years, Showers says any coach would love to contend every year like his group has.
“I wasn’t sure to start the year we could make it this far, because some of the girls weren’t getting along and we were having trouble adjusting, but our young kids performed well for us, the seniors did their part and it all came together in the end,” Showers said.
Having defeated the East No. 4 seed in Tombstone High on Feb. 17, 62-22, and the East No. 2 seed Thatcher High on Friday, Feb. 20, 42-41, Camp Verde was ready for another wild one in the 2A state semifinals.
The girls came out firing on all cylinders on Saturday, hitting a few early baskets to take a 16-4 lead with just under three minutes to go in the first quarter.
Wilcox, however, was not going to lie down in front of another Camp Verde bus and just die; they were here to play basketball and went on a 7-0 run to end the quarter, trailing the Cowboys 16-11 at the end.
Wilcox managed to keep the momentum going in the second quarter after senior captain Cassie Spleiss recorded her third foul of the game and had to sit the bench.
“Once Cassie [Spleiss] had to sit because of fouls it was like a shot of adrenaline for Wilcox,” Showers said.
Wilcox managed to outscore Camp Verde 12-7 in the quarter, and it was all tied up at 23-23 at halftime.
Showers continued to say Spleiss’ third foul changed the course of the game. No longer were many of the girls playing the aggressive style of basketball which got them to this point, and Showers knew it right away.
“I thought if we didn’t get it going, we were going to be in trouble,” Showers said.
Despite Spleiss’s 20-point, five-rebound, three-steal and two-assist effort, the Cowboys were in trouble and found themselves trailing 38-34 heading into the fourth quarter.
In the final period, the wheels fell off the bus for the Camp Verde girls as nothing went their way.
With just over two minutes to go, Camp Verde found itself down by 12, but to its credit still fought to get back in the game.
In the next possession, Camp Verde turned the ball over, then came right back and fouled a Wilcox player who put in two free throws to go up 14.
“At that point I knew it was over,” Showers said.
Emptying his bench, Showers shook the hands and gave hugs to his seniors who led the team this far, making sure each one of them knew it was a job well done.
In the final period, Wilcox outscored the Cowboys 24-9 as they went on to win, 62-43.
Senior Jamie Cupp had nine points while senior Cherreia Reeves had six points, five steals and six assists.
Senior post player Liz Hicks added six points as well, joining her senior teammates in a final game of basketball while wearing a Cowboy uniform.
As sophomores, this senior group played for a state title during the 2006-2007 season and lost to Pusch Ridge High, 46-36.
Last year, Pusch Ridge ended its season early in the second round, and this year, this special group of players made it to the state semifinals.
“We’ve had a heck of a run,” Showers said.
Showers acknowledged next season would be a rebuilding year, which will begin in June during summer basketball, but for now, he and his team will enjoy the success they had this season knowing full well they did all they could.
The Cowboys wrap up the season with a 25-8 [9-3, 2A-Central] overall record.