When the Mingus Union girls' basketball team hosted the Coconino Panthers on senior night it was spoiled by the visitors' Brandi Kescoli and her sharp shooting from beyond the arc.
The loss put the Marauders' record at 10-12. With two games left on the schedule, they had the chance to finish the season at .500. The girls had put together multiple win streaks before, so it could be done, but with their post season hopes dashed, they had to find a different motivation.
It may not have been their intention, or motivation, but en route to wining their final two games of the season, and finishing 12-12, the Marauders gave Prescott and Sedona Red Rock High Schools a taste of what happened to them on senior night when they sent the Badgers' and Scorpions' seniors back to the locker room with losses, 49-46 and 66-52 respectively.
"I'm just so happy for the seniors to go out that way," said co-head coach Dave Moncibaez. "Kind of gives them bragging rights for the Valley and they wanted it pretty bad. They definitely didn't want o give their last one up."
They started things by traveling to Prescott High School on Feb. 6. It was a close game with both the Badgers and Marauders having their moments, but the girls gutted out the 49-46 win, not only ruining Prescott's senior night, but also killing the Badgers' own post season hopes.
"It felt really good," said Lexie Kleinman. "Coconino was a hard loss, but them we went to Prescott and beat them, it felt really good because I don't think we've ever beaten Prescott, and with Sedona, we just like beating them."
After the emotional win, the girls had to make a quick turnaround the next day, Feb. 7, and end the season at rival Sedona Red Rock. It was difficult in the beginning; the girls came out flat in the first quarter, but Kleinman got her team on the board with the Marauders' first four points.
Down 6-2, the Scorpions answered with a 5-0 run to take the lead, but Angel Chavez quickly remedied the situation with a trey to put her team back on top. That was the last time the Marauders would trail the host team the rest of the game.
Led by former Scorpion Amber Rippy and teammate Heather Calandra, the Marauders put a comfortable distance between themselves and the Scorpions. Rippy and Calandra dropped 20 of the Marauders 22 second quarter points and went into the break up 37-27.
"I think we were all just really excited to come play our last game and we knew Sedona was a rivalry type of game, so its really fun to play rivalry as a last game," Calandra said. "And I think we were all high-spirited, which is why we played well."
One of the big first half factors that benefited the Marauders was that Sedona could not take care of the ball. Mingus Union added to Sedona's turnover woes by pressuring the Scorpions and intercepting passes. Monica Soliz, Danielle Valenzuela and the rest of their team were able to record steals, grab boards and limit their rivals' time of possession.
Coming out of the break, the girls found a rhythm and, despite being tentative when shooting the ball, were moving the rock around the perimeter.
The home team did their best to cut the deficit and rally against the Marauders but every time they scored, Mingus answered with two or three field goals of their own. This led to a 20-point lead, 58-38, for the Marauders off a Chavez one-and-one early in the final stanza.
"They wanted it bad. They were focused and wanted to make the adjustments we made," Moncibaez said. "But really, they handled the ball game really well. They were in control the whole time. They started making little run but we got back into it and we shut them down."
The Scorpions showed signs of life at the end of the contest, outscoring the Marauders 14-12 in the final eight minutes, but it was all for naught when the final buzzer sounded, and the Marauders walked off the court with their 66-52 win.
"Yeah, it was weird being on the opposite side," Rippy, a former Scorpion, said. "I could have been having another senior night, but it was cool for having my last game at my old school."
With the win, the girls finished the 2013-14 season 12-12. This is the first time the girls' basketball team finished .500 or above since the 2008-09 season (23-9) and their third wining season in seven years.
"It was good because now we have a wining record to say that," Soliz said. "We're the first team in [a long time]."
In the second year under Art Monciabez and his son David, the girls have posted back-to-back improvements on previous seasons. The Marauders finished fifth in Division-II, Section-1 and No. 35 in D-II.
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