The No. 6-ranked Camp Verde High School girls basketball team pulled out a 44-40 victory over No. 8 Glendale Preparatory Academy in what was its first tough region contest of the season, Friday, Jan. 5.
The Cowboys [9-1, 2-0 Central] were up by six with a couple minutes remaining, but almost let the victory slip away. They dealt with the Griffins’ [6-3, 1-1] pressure defense throughout the game, but suddenly the added-on pressure of seeing out victory began to cause havoc. Sophomore guard Amanda Lozanilla sealed the win, hitting all three free throws after being fouled beyond the arc.
“Frantic, frantic. It was a last minute of sophomores,” Camp Verde head coach Mark Showers said. “When things get frantic, the kids tend to act on emotions rather than level heads and just focusing on what the defense gives them, and they turn the ball over.
“Good for them they were able to push through that.”
The young Cowboys group had to push through another emotional turning point first, in the third quarter.
Trailing 24-21, junior guard Hope Ontiveros fouled a driving Glendale Prep player. Ontiveros was handed a technical foul after the fact for bouncing the ball out of frustration, and Camp Verde was down 27-21 following the free throws, its biggest deficit.
From then on, the Cowboys settled down. Sophomore center Jacy Finley scored eight points in just over a minute and a half. Finley showed her range, sandwiching a pair of three-pointers with an easy finish at the basket off of an inbounds play. With 1:08 left in the third, the latter triple saw Camp Verde take a 29-28.
“Those are the kind of things that have to happen for them to be able to improve and progress mentally,” Showers said. “Because right now the difference between us and a lot of other teams is the mental aspect, it really is, it’s not the physical. I think we’re as good as probably 90 percent of the teams in 2A, but a lot of these teams are a little bit more seasoned mentally than we are, so those are things we have to work on.”
The momentum continued as Lozanilla finished a fast break with a layup, and the lead was 31-30 with one quarter left.
Throughout the fourth, the Cowboys defense dared the Griffins to shoot from the outside, and they were not hitting their shots. A Lozanilla three-pointer opened the lead to 36-30, the hosts’ biggest lead of the night.
Glendale Prep, which Camp Verde defeated in last year’s Conference 2A state play-in tournament game, did not go away. While the Griffins were bringing pressure the entire game, it did not become an issue until the final minutes. Camp Verde sophomore guard Tanna Decker hit two free throws to make it 40-34, but two straight turnovers resulted in five Glendale Prep points.
The Cowboys failed to secure a defensive rebound off of a missed shot, and the Griffins hit another foul shot to knot the game at 40 before Lozanilla’s game-winning free throws.
“We were just pushing through it through the whole game,” Lozanilla said. “Some of us just put our heads down and we just pushed through it like always.”
The first half, Showers said, was about driving to the basket and continuing to do so although the results did not come right away. Camp Verde trailed 21-18 at the break, 18 of the Griffin points scored by one player. The persistence paid off as Decker and Lozanilla each went to the foul line in the second half.
Camp Verde traveled to Sedona Red Rock High School for the first Verde Valley rivalry game of the season on Tuesday, Jan. 9, but results were unavailable at press time. It next plays at 5:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 12 at Paradise Honors High Schoo