Girls basketball drops close one to Coco on senior night

Amber Rippy throws up a trey against Coconino. VVN/Travis Guy

Amber Rippy throws up a trey against Coconino. VVN/Travis Guy

As evident with the Mingus Union boys' basketball team, when a team that shoots a lot of three's is on, they are hard to stop. That sentiment was none truer than when the Mingus Union girls' basketball team hosted the Coconino Panthers on senior night.

Coco's Brandi Kescoli caught fire in the third and sunk a handful of treys, the Panthers dropped five as a team, which would be the difference in a close game and the visitors took the 54-50 win with them back to Flagstaff.

"Dang, they wanted it bad," said co-head coach Dave Moncibaez. "That's a top team in section, not the top, but one of the top ... The girls played their heart out, they didn't let down. I couldn't be any more proud than I was tonight. They played like they should. It was their last home game and they represented their last home game really well."

On Feb. 4, the Marauders hosted the top-15 Panthers in a Division-II, Section-1 showdown. The Panthers were in second in the standings and ranked No. 13 in D-III. If the girls were to get the win, not only would it be a fine feather in their cap, but also a great win over a school rival.

As the two teams went into their locker rooms for halftime, the Marauders held a 28-26 advantage. Heather Calandra was nearly unstoppable under the basket and limiting the Panthers' rebounds. Amber Rippy, Monica Soliz and Danielle Valenzuela were powering their teams scoring and Angel Chavez was directing everything.

Coming out of the break, it was back-and-forth for the first part of the quarter. But then Kescoli caught fire. The Coco girls' team is much like the boys team in that they both shoot three's with reckless abandon. The glaring difference is that the girls are actually able to get decent looks at the basket and sink their shots.

The three-point shooting from the visitors turned a two-point game at the half into a 48-40 advantage for Coconino. The Marauders fought to keep it close and retake the lead. Lexie Kleinman kicked off scoring in the second half with Mingus' first five points. Rippy was the spark plug for the Marauders. She tallied 13 points for the night. Soliz was the resident sharpshooter in the first half with two treys.

One of the big turning points in the second half was when a questionable (she was not by the Panther that was fouled) foul was given to Calandra. That ended being her fifth foul and the senior was sent to the bench.

"Tough, very tough," Moncibaez said. "I took a gamble putting her in and it didn't take but a few seconds to get her right back out. It was unfortunate. Sometimes the calls are what they are."

In the final eight minutes, the Marauders were down 48-40. A Chavez trey brought the girls within five and Valenzuela hit her own three to put Mingus in striking distance, 50-48. Rippy was fouled and nailed both her shots from the charity stripe, but four Coco points were all that was needed for the visitors to seal the game.

The girls have one game remaining, an away game against rival Sedona Red Rock. The Marauders will have a chance to end the season on a high note when they travel the short drive on Feb. 7 at 5:30 p.m.

"They enjoyed every moment of it," Moncibaez said. "I know when they look back on this game, for our seniors, they're going to love that memory. Right now they're feeling and about it, but looking back on things, they'll love it and miss it."

Follow Travis Guy on Twitter @verdesports and Verde Independent on Instagram @Verde_News

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