COTTONWOOD- Thursday night, the Mingus Marauders boys' basketball team made another statement to their Section and the rest of Division III, that they are for real. The No. 8-ranked Marauders, took down No. 2-ranked Estrella Foothills 79-58.
The Marauders never fell behind, and the closest the Wolves got to the red-hot Marauders was when Estrella Foothills big-man Rex Greabell drilled a mid-range jumper to tie it a 51-all. But the Marauders answered right back, extending their lead to five when big-man Gerardo Angulo stepped behind the perimeter and drilled a three that built their lead back up to five. The Wolves only scored seven more points the rest of the game. Mingus Head Coach David Beery, said Angulo's three was a "real momentum changer."
"Their big (Greabell) is extremely talented and we just wanted to make him work to get his baskets as much as we could," Beery said. "He really hurt us on the offensive glass and Gerardo struggled a little early with the physicality of the game. However, he made some great plays down the stretch and his corner three was a real momentum changer."
That three not only got the Marauders bench going, but the Mingus faithful were loud and proud all night, celebrating the senior night of Angulo, Evan Snyder, Joe Doerksen, Ashton Loring, Fabian Navarro and Kyle Houston.
The Marauders closed out the upset with some late free throws, and a huge and-one lay-up from Miles Tapija that all but sealed the game and prevented a Wolves comeback. Tapija finished with 19-points on the night, while senior guard Fabian Navarro scored 15 and dished out six assists. Ashton Loring and Issac Escalante both finished with 12 points. All 12 of Loring's points came from behind the perimeter, including a very deep three that got the bench on their feet.
Heading into the game, Beery knew that the Wolves were a very well-coached and talented team. At halftime he mentioned to his team about keeping their composure when the Wolves made their move, and the Marauders did just that.
"We knew they're a very well-coached and talented team, and that they would respond and make a run," Beery said. "We mentioned keeping our composure and playing through the times when they hit shots or we made a few bad plays. That was the point in the game that really separates this team in my opinion, last year we would've gotten rattled in that scenario. They stuck together and made some huge plays to rebuild a lead."
In Beery's second-year at the helm of the Mingus Union High School basketball program he has led his Marauders back to the post-season, but that is not where the Marauders want to stop. The next step for the Marauders though, the No. 1-seed in the Division III Section IV tournament.
All of the advancing teams in Section IV have once held the top spot. Bradshaw Mountain, sits as the third seed (7-3), the Moon Valley Rockets sit as the No. 5-seed. Both of these teams took down Mingus earlier in the season. The North Canyon Rattlers have gotten hot since their loss to Mingus, winning eight of ten games, falling to Snowflake and Glendale High School. With a Section so tight, Beery believes that it is really a toss-up for who will take the sectional crown.
"I think our section and our division is very open," Beery said. "I feel our section is the most competitive top-to-bottom, and any of the six advancing teams could win it. State is looking the same way, there are several talented teams-but I haven't seen a juggernaut that looks unbeatable."
Although the Marauders won't get to host a sectional game as the tournament will be held at Washington High School, Mingus is still looking to use the support it has for the state tournament.
"We would love to host a state playoff game, but our focus now is on sectionals," Beery said. "The community and especially our student body has been incredibly supportive this season, especially Thursday night. It was great to see our seniors on the court and in the stands shine last night."
A win over any team can be great, but sometimes there is a little extra meaning behind a game and Thursday was one of those games.
Senior guard Evan Snyder suffered a broken jaw in practice last Saturday and will be held out of games due to the injury.
The second-year Head Coach knew it was hard for one of his seniors to be sitting on the bench.
"It was good to get a huge win without Evan," Beery said. "He is such a competitor, I know it was hard for him to be stuck on the bench but the boys played that one for him and it was great to see them answer Estrella every time they made a run."
The season isn't over just yet, the Marauders, who earned the No. 1-seed in the Division III Section IV tournament will play at 7 p.m. on February 12 at Washington High School.
The Marauders will play the winner of the No. 4 vs No. 5 game which will be held on Wednesday at 5:15 p.m.