With young players, it is easy to see the strides a team makes throughout a season. The Camp Verde High School girls basketball team is a prime example of that.
The Cowboys [17-7, 7-3 2A Central] ended their regular season with a 54-11 trouncing of visiting Northland Preparatory Academy on Friday, Feb. 3, but playing in a different style than usual.
“They did a nice job of executing what we set out to do,” Cowboy head coach Mark Showers said. “And not playing down to their [the Spartans’] level, but playing our game.”
Before the game, Cowboy seniors Dolce Esparza, Marisa Presmyk, Raiven Alvey and Kayla Hackett were honored on their senior night.
“I was a lot more nervous than a normal game,” Hackett said. “It’s mixed feelings because it’s hard to beat a team by so much but at the same time it’s really fun playing our hardest and going out and trying.”
Defense was the staple of the game, as Camp Verde forced 12 first-quarter turnovers and led 16-2 after the first eight minutes of the game. But the way in which the Cowboys played on the offensive end was the striking difference.
After a second place finish at the Yvonne Johnson Memorial Shoot-Out on Dec. 30, Showers talked about how his team needed to be better at dribble penetration.
Against Northland Prep, it was obvious that was the Cowboys’ emphasis. Freshmen guards Tanna Decker and Amanda Lozanilla habitually drove inside with the ball, beating their defenders off of the dribble and many times getting a layup.
“That’s exactly what we have been working on,” Showers said. “That’s what we’ve worked on the last three weeks ... the kids for the most part are getting the idea.”
Lozanilla scored the Cowboys’ first nine points in the second quarter in a row by way of a three-pointer and then driving to the hoop three times.
When the Camp Verde ballhandlers could not get inside on their own, they moved to the second part of the offense. Hackett and freshman center Jacy Finley got a lot of quality inside looks.
Showers said that those looks came as the second phase of their offense; Camp Verde scored 10 consecutive points from the inside during the second quarter.
At halftime, the Cowboys’ lead was 37-5, giving up just a one-for-16 effort from the field by the Spartans.
During the third quarter, the Camp Verde substitutes began to see heavy minutes, with Showers making five-for-five substitutions. The Cowboys continued to do damage on the inside against a smaller Northland Prep team, scoring 10 more points from in and around the painted area.
“They did a nice job of getting the ball into the post, that’s what the offense does,” Showers said.
Despite having a substantial lead, Camp Verde continued to be steadfast on defense.
Showers chalked up the effort to the self-discipline the younger players developed on their own throughout the season, and the older players already having it.
“No matter what happens on the offensive end, you have to be intense on defense,” Showers said.
With a running clock in the final frame, the Cowboys ended their regular season homestand on a good note; they look to host a first-round Arizona Interscholastic Association State Championship game in the coming weeks. The brackets will be announced on Sunday, Feb. 12.
Lozanilla led the Cowboys with a career-high 22 points, including 18 in the first half. Hackett had eight points and Presmyk six.
Looking back on their time in the program, Presmyk said she would miss just being around the team, and Alvey agreed with that notion, talking about the bus rides and games and tournaments.