Three months into the season, this year’s basketball squad is showing great promise. The team currently holds a regular season record of 12-3, with losses coming only from highly ranked teams like Valley Union, Tanque Verde and long-time rival Desert Christian.
The Hawks are currently ranked seventh in the state, but have held a top five ranking for nearly the entire season. Head Coach Dr. Michelle Berry has transitioned well to coaching the boys with the help of her assistants A.J. Albritton, Adam Gonzales, and Aleisha Tunzi.
Coach Berry credits their success to everyone’s work ethic both in practice and in games. “Because they’re willing to push themselves physically, they’ve also been able to learn physically how to play better, how to get fitter, so in terms of that, it’s been a super rewarding season,” said Berry.
With several young and inexperienced players, Berry has needed to focus on developing both game knowledge and fundamental skills.
Sophomore and captain Nick Rosquist is proud of the team’s success so far, but acknowledges that the team should constantly be improving. “We have a lot more work that needs to be done if we want to go far in the state tournament, but overall, it has been a very successful season so far,” said Rosquist.
Rosquist added, “We just need to focus on the little details like boxing out and lowering the amount of turnovers we have in games.”
Senior Danny Benson feels that their 12-3 record is somewhat cheapened by their weak strength of schedule. “If you look at our record, it’s been pretty good, but we haven’t had too many impressive wins, which is something we need to improve on,” said Benson.
The Hawks have beaten section rival Baboquivari twice in addition to the highly ranked St. David team. Senior Esteban Quintana made the game-winning shot in the second game versus Baboquivari.
Quintana’s game winner was not the only one of the season; Davis Byrne hit a buzzer-beater three pointer against Fort Thomas back in December which was followed by a passionate celebration.
The Hawks played against Desert Christian at McKale Memorial Center as part of the Martin Luther King Classic. Desert Christian had a 12 point lead after the first quarter and held that lead for the rest of the game, resulting in a 70-56 victory for the Eagles.
Berry not only blamed the loss on the referees, the arena setting, and key players being sick, but also on the slow start.
Senior Andrew Zlaket said, “The fact that it was a different setting, and honestly the backdrop against the basket was harder to shoot on, so our depth perception was off, and I think Desert just wanted it more than we did.”
The team is still missing their center, Riley Breedlove, who remains out with a fractured foot. His presence is missed on the court, especially against tall teams like Valley Union. Breedlove initially planned on returning in time to play over MLK weekend, but his doctor did not clear him to play.
“I’m about three weeks away, which is two days before the sectional tournament, but I am not sedentary,” said Breedlove. “I have the ability to not only score down low but to also make opposing teams think twice before driving to the basket due to my ability to protect the rim and block shots,” Breedlove said.
The Hawks have the sectional tournament on February 11 and 14 in Casa Grande. The team is likely to make the state tournament, which begins on February 20. The venue is still to be determined. Berry and the players are both ambitious and optimistic regarding the upcoming State Tournament.
“We have high hopes… Hopefully we get a first round by, and then you know, we want to go two or three rounds into state,” said Berry.
Zlaket wants to go out of high school with a state championship. “Obviously we are gonna try to win it all, and I kinda see it going that way. I hope that’s how it goes.”
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