The Camp Verde boys basketball team heads into the first round of the State Playoffs tonight as the Cowboys travel to Boulder Creek high school for a 7 p.m. game against the winner of the Thatcher vs. Gila Bend game Thursday night.
The Cowboys come into the State tournament after defeating Piñon in the 2A North Regional Tournament championship game.
The surprise of the regional tournament was when Rough Rock upset St. Johns. That set up a game between Camp Verde and Rough Rock, which the Cowboys won by 14 points.
Then against Piñon in championship game on Saturday, beat them 65-54. Matt Freeman and Austin Beeler stepped it up for the Cowboys to help win the championship, scoring 16 point and 15 points, respectively and added some excellent play in the 4th quarter to seal the win.
Last year's team entered into the State tournament, ranked No. 4 in the region and got to the 2nd round before getting knocked out by a very strong Maricopa team.
This year the Cowboys will most likely face Thatcher in their 1st round game tonight. Thatcher's biggest threat according to coach Darren Gagnon is that the team is very well coached.
"They are going to be very fundamental," said coach Gagnon. "They aren't going to hurt themselves by making stupid mistakes. We are going to have to take care of the ball. They are going to capitalize on any mistakes."
If Camp Verde beats Thatcher, they will go up against one of the toughest teams in the State tournament, Northwest Christian. The teams faced each other earlier this year in a scrimmage. The team has a lot of height with three players measuring at 6-foot, 7-inches, 6-foot, 8-inches and 6-foot, 9-inches.
"That's going to be a huge game for us," said Gagnon. "They are one of the best teams."
Coach Gagnon's strategy, should they face NW Christian is to keep the tempo of the game up, to push the ball on offense and try and see if they can run with the Cowboys. The big thing for Camp Verde is to take advantage of the team's quickness up and down the court.
But before coach Gagnon can think about NW Christian the Cowboys are getting ready to play Thatcher tonight.
The team has played some tough games this season, especially in the Round valley tournament where the Cowboys placed second.
"It was a good confidence building tournament," said coach Gagnon. "It got us off on the right foot to start the year."
It seems like the team is on a very good streak coming down the final stretch of the season with 9 wins in a row. This will be a very strong Cowboys team facing what is anticipated to be Thatcher, tonight.
Starting tonight will be Ricardo Pacheco, Matt Freeman, Austin Beeler, Seth Mosely and Jordan Lewis.
"We're in good shape," said coach Gagnon. "We're ready."