Mingus Union High School’s boys basketball team ended its regular season on a high note, defeating visiting Lee Williams High School 54-45 on senior night, Friday, Feb. 2, while cementing its second-place finish in the Grand Canyon Region and a berth to the state playoffs.
The Marauders [13-5, 9-3 Grand Canyon] never trailed, but did let the Volunteers [5-12, 2-9] pull to within one in the fourth quarter before securing the win.
“I think we’ve exceeded our own expectations a little bit this year, definitely we have. We’re going to play next week [in a playoff game], which again has been our goal all along, to get that state game,” Mingus head coach Dave Beery said. “I’m proud of these guys. They let them get to within one point and it’s easy because you lose momentum and our body language started to stink, but we fought back and hit some big shots down the stretch.
“You’re frustrated because you knew you could have played better, but at the same time we did enough to do what we wanted to do, which was win.”
After finishing last season fourth in the region at 5-7, the Marauders have had an improved year this time around. They ended the regular season winning 10 of their final 13, and claimed second place in the region behind Coconino High School.
Seven seniors were honored before the game: Forward Alex Figy, center Kyren Kirton, guard Bryce Cramer, guard Tanner Bryson, forward Michael Bryan, guard Kaynen Loring and forward Martin Soria.
“It’s been a fun team to coach, it’s been a team I’ve really enjoyed coaching. They’re hard workers, they’re one of the hardest working teams I’ve had in practice since I started coaching,” Beery said. “In games they’ve grown, they’ve gotten better at working together. When there’s that many seniors and three pretty decent juniors on the team it’s hard to get everybody playing time. We’ve had a few guys quit and stuff over those kinds of issues, but the guys that stuck it out I’m real proud of because they’ve grown to work together, they’ve grown to accept their roles.”
Two of Figy’s game-high 16 points came right after Lee Williams junior guard Diego Narvarte finished a three-point play to cut the visitors’ deficit to 42-41 with 3:45 left in the fourth. Then Marauders junior guard Chase Saczalski hit a three-pointer and a free throw off consecutive Volunteer turnovers to put Lee Williams at an arm’s reach again at 48-41.
Bryson is a senior who had just recently gotten more playing time and hit three free throws to help see out the victory. Mingus built its lead to 18-13 after the first quarter by ending it on a 7-2 run.
The lead grew to 29-19 at halftime. Lee Williams hung around through the play of senior forward Marco Anotonio Narvarte down low, who finished with 15 points and kept Mingus off the glass during stretches.
Narvarte scored nine points in the opening frame.
“He’s a great kid. I like watching him play, [and] I enjoy competing against him. I’m glad I don’t have to compete against him anymore, but he really kicked our butt tonight,” Beery said.
The Volunteers scored four straight to open the second half, but Figy converted an and-1 in response. Saczalski later hit a triple and Bryan a fast break layup. It was Narvarte again, scoring at the third quarter buzzer to keep his team in it at 39-31.
Mingus had six turnovers in the fourth quarter, fueling Lee Williams’ comeback bid with four points to open the final frame. Both teams pressured one another across the entire court most of the game, trading turnovers.
“We didn’t play real disciplined at times and let them back in the game when we had a chance to get some separation and put the thing away,” Beery said. “Our execution is better than it’s been all season at times, and it was a lot worse than it’s been in the second half. We had some guys make bad decisions and a lot of turnovers, too many turnovers.”
Mingus entered the game at No. 14 in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Conference 4A rankings, and will likely host a state tournament play-in game at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9. The official play-in tournament bracket was released after press time.