The No. 10-seeded Camp Verde High School girls basketball team could not hang on to the ball in the second half of its 45-23 loss to No. 7 Phoenix Country Day School in the first round of the 2017 Arizona Interscholastic Association 2A State Championship on Friday, Feb. 17, at Yavapai College.
The Cowboys [18-8, 7-3 2A Central] were down just 19-18 at halftime, but mustered just five second-half points while committing 15 turnovers.
“Our mistakes didn’t allow us to get into an offensive set and at the same time gave them easy opportunities at the other end,” Cowboys head coach Mark Showers said. “And that was the difference in the game.”
After gaining momentum in the second quarter, Camp Verde scored just one point in the third off of a free throw by senior forward Kayla Hackett. The Eagles scored 11 of their own.
The Cowboys’ lack of offense came after defensive adjustments by the Eagles. Phoenix Country Day had size inside as well, and when Cowboy six-foot freshman center Jacy Finley was not in the game, the Cowboys struggled to grab rebounds.
“They figured out what we were doing and we had to change up a few things,” Hackett said. “And I think that kind of messed up our momentum, having to change what we did and having to modify a few things.
Five of the Eagles’ third-quarter points came from the charity stripe and another four from Camp Verde turnovers. The Cowboys shot zero for seven from the field in the frame.
The fourth quarter was much the same; they committed another eight turnovers and shot two for 10.
To reach the one-point halftime deficit, Camp Verde had to reel the Eagles in from a 12-4 hole after the first. Showers said that is hard for any young team — he starts three freshmen — to handle the new kind of pressure that comes with playing in the State tournament and be able to perform right away.
But in the second quarter they found their way.
“The second quarter we settled in,” Showers said. “They settled in and really worked hard and we were able to comeback in the second quarter.”
An 8-0 scoring run tied the game, with sophomore guard Tyra Smith capping the run with a bucket off of a possession of sharp passing. Even though the Cowboys did not have a size advantage inside, they were successful down low during stretches.
A Hackett putback gave the Cowboys a 14-13 lead, and it was back-and-forth for the rest of the quarter until Eagle senior guard Emma Sheridan drove in for a layup to beat the buzzer.
Both Showers and Camp Verde freshman guard Amanda Lozanilla acknowledged nerves playing a factor for the young Cowboys team.
“I think we were just nervous on shooting and we were just quick on it, and none of them were going in at all,” Lozanilla said.
The team started three freshmen throughout the season in Lozanilla, Finley and guard Tanna Decker.
“It was definitely way better than expected,” Hackett said. “With the team that we had I couldn’t have asked for a better season. We stuck it out, kept our heads up and worked as hard as we could to get where we are.”
Just Hackett, forward Marisa Presmyk and guard Raiven Alvey are graduating, combined with the return of sophomore guard Hope Ontiveros from an ACL injury next season, the Cowboys will be poised for success in the coming seasons.
“We’ll be better, we’ll win at least one game,” said Showers tongue-in-cheek.