Positive results do not always come in the form of wins and losses.
Such was the case for the No. 6-ranked Camp Verde High School girls basketball team’s third place performance at the Yvonne Johnson Memorial tournament Saturday, Dec. 30. The team that has one more year of experience finished one place lower than in 2016.
Nonetheless it was a good final tune-up for the Cowboys [8-1. 1-0 Central Region] as they resume Central Region play on Friday, Jan. 5.
“This tournament was absolutely perfect for us,” Cowboys head coach Mark Showers said. “This was huge. These four games in these days we watched, which I want to see, a natural progression throughout the four games of the tournament. It was a mental and physical improvement each game.”
Showers talked about overcoming challenges on the mental side of the game. After dropping a 59-50 decision to Shadow Ridge High School in the second game Friday, Dec. 29, the Cowboys had another tough test in Many Farms High School.
In a rematch from the 2016 championship game, they narrowly fell in overtime, 45-41. Score aside, the Cowboys were able to withstand the pressure the Lobos put on and maintain their composure.
Down 27-22 after three quarters, the Cowboys then trailed 31-24 before three-pointers from junior guard Hope Ontiveros and sophomore guard Amanda Lozanilla cut the deficit to one.
Lozanilla later hit another triple to go up 34-33, but the Lobos again took the lead, and Camp Verde was forced to begin fouling.
It was Cowboys sophomore forward Destiny Dowdle who came through with the late heroics. Many Farms took a timeout after hitting two free throws to go up 39-36 with 12 seconds left.
On the ensuing possession, Dowdle, not a habitual three-point shooter, drained a three with one second left to force the extra period.
In overtime Camp Verde never led, with sophomore center Jacy Finley the lone scorer.
“Many Farms got all over us, and the kids held their composure,” Showers said. “The kids never quit. They maintained their composure, and they did a great job.”
In the third place game, the Cowboys faced off with Horizon Honors High School, which they had handily beaten 48-19 on Dec. 14. But, the Eagles returned its best player from illness, and it was a much closer contest.
Lozanilla grabbed a steal and converted in transition to make it 41-35 with one quarter left. Horizon Honors pulled to within four at 45-41 before back-to-back triples from Camp Verde sophomore guard Tanna Decker reinflated the lead to 51-41 with five minutes left.
The Cowboys hit seven of nine attempts from the foul line to seal the 57-49 win.
Ontiveros was named to the all-tournament team after the game.
“Where they struggled against Shadow Ridge, they made great improvement against Many Farms, and they continued that improvement, and it’s all the mental part of the game against Horizon Honors,” Showers said.
In the opening game on Friday, Dec. 29, Camp Verde defeated Joseph City High School 50-18.
The team will now take on the rest of its challenging Central Region schedule that features two other teams in the top 10 of the Conference 2A poll: No. 3 Sedona Red Rock High School and No. 8 Glendale Preparatory Academy. It hosts Glendale Prep at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Also in the region is No. 12 Paradise Honors High School.
“Glendale Prep is tough. Their best player graduated last year, but they’re still pretty strong,” Showers said. “They like to pressure full court, so we’re just going to have to be prepared for that.”
After the words of praise he had for his young team, the Cowboys do appear to be prepared to take on that pressure.