Like always, Winslow coach Jerron Jordan gives credit where
time he really meant it as his Lady Bulldogs survived a frantic
night against the Valley Lady Pirates to eke out a 45-40 win in
the championship game of the Arizona Division III girls state basketball
tournament on Saturday, Feb. 23.
"First and foremost, I give Valley credit," Jordan
said. "It takes a lot to get here and they have a great ballclub.
They played us tough every time, but we had a goal of winning a
"It wasn't easy because we were like two minutes away from
getting another state runner-up trophy," he added. "The
kids kept working hard. I have to give credit to my kids and my
After leading by as much as 13 points at the start of the fourth
quarter, most people inside the Jobing.com Arena assumed the Bulldogs
were just about ready to start clipping down the net and claim its
ninth state title, the first under Jordan.
But in a matter of minutes the Bulldogs saw its comfortable
lead dissipate as Valley forced four turnovers and converted them
into points. On two of those possessions sophomore guard Tamara
Nez nailed back-to-back treys and capped an incredible 14-0 rally
Her second one of the night gave the Pirates a 37-36 edge with
4:16 left in the game. Needless to say, that stirred up the 10,000-plus
crowd, which seemed to favor Valley by a slim margin.
"With the teams from our section, once you wake up that
crowd you wake up a sleeping giant," Jordan said. "Valley's
fan base got loud and they fired their team up."
After that shot in the arm, Valley managed only one more basket
as Winslow ran off the next nine points, which was started by a
put back from sophomore post Shandiin Armao.
"Our turnovers got a little crazy, but it didn't matter
because we slowed it down" Armao said. "We got control
of what we were doing and we didn't get frazzled. Our coach helped
us through it and all we did was keep focus."
Armao finished the game with 17 points and had, a mindboggling,
Junior post Halle Hayes helped out with 12 points and 10 rebounds
while senior guard Mattea Begaii added 10 for Winslow.
Valley, which was making its third championship appearance with
the last coming in 1980, got 11 points from senior point guard Adrinna
Nez while junior Rolanda Mitchell helped out with nine.
"I thought we had it, but we had some crucial turnovers
there at the end," Valley coach Julia Six said. "We let
this one slip away, but like I told the girls there is nothing to
be ashamed of.
"We just have to keep our heads up," she added.
The third-year coach said the loss was hard to accept, especially
for the five seniors.
"The girls played real hard," Six said. "We've
been playing the same teams over and over and it's hard to go up
against them, but we've opened a lot of eyes.
"We finished as the No. 2 team in the state in Division
III and that says a lot about what we're building," she added.
With a smaller lineup, Six expected Winslow to control the board,
but they counteracted that deficiency with hard-nosed defense.
"I thought we gave a good effort," she said when told
they forced 25 turnovers, which led to 27 points on their end. "We
just couldn't finish it tonight."
As for Winslow, they finished the game with a 43 to 28 edge
on the boards, including 34 on the defensive end.
Those defensive boards were huge as they limited Valley to one
shot after they trailed 16-12 in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs took over the lead at 22-21 with 2:22 to go in
the second when Begaii went down the baseline and put in a layup.
At the half, Winslow gained a 26-21 cushion with a three-point
shot from Hayes. The Bulldogs extended that lead to 35-23 heading
into fourth before junior point guard Marcella Joe gave them their
largest lead of the night at 36-23 with 7:12 to go.
That was when Valley went on its run to make the game interesting.
"We've played them two times before and they gave us a
good game," Joe said.
In their previous meetings "we would get a big lead, but
they would always catch up
but somehow we would always manage
to come back on top," she said.
"It got real intense and everything got real serious,"
Winslow guard Laylane Benslow added. "(Valley) is so talented
and they just never gave up. I didn't expect it to be that close,
but they gave us a good scare."
But interestingly enough, the Bulldogs were not about to let
this championship slip away.
"I think it was in our destiny, especially with what we
went through," Benslow said.
In mid-January the Winslow community lost a member of its family
when popular coach and business teacher Rebecca "Becky"
Barris passed away due to complications from a car accident.
"That really hurt when we lost coach Barris," Jordan
said. "It was a big loss to our family and we're still grieving,
but it brought us closer together."
After hearing news of her car accident, the team canceled its
game with Holbrook. The next day they tried to pick up the pieces
as they played Page.
"The kids were emotional out of it but they played well,"
Jordan said. "We lost that game by one point. From that point
on we came close as a team and that sparked us as a team. We feel
good that we ended this on a good note because I think we had an
angel watch us watching us from heaven tonight.
"Becky was looking down on us," he added.