PEORIA- Whenever you are able to beat a team that is ranked within the Top 10 of Division III it is obviously going to feel pretty good.
After beating No. 5 Cortez Tuesday night, 88-80, the Mingus Union boys' basketball team will have the opportunity to face off with two more top 15 teams as they try to move their way up the ranks of Division III.
Fabian Navarro led the rejuvenated Marauders with 20 points Tuesday night, Issac Escalante pitched in 17 while both Miles Tapija and Gerardo Angulo scored 16 apiece in the Marauders second-straight win since coming back from Christmas break. Head Coach David Beery said it felt good to get the win over the Colts but he has his eyes on the next couple of tough games ahead.
"Obviously it feels good, but we have a lot of really important games coming up," Beery said. "North Canyon is a very good team and will definitely be motivated to beat us on Friday. But the wins over Payson and Cortez help us get some momentum for the second half."
The Marauders beat No. 14 North Canyon by nine points back on December 9, 60-51. Since that win, the Marauders have been up and down over the past couple of weeks but have seemed to hit their stride coming out of Christmas break.
Beery attributed that mostly to getting healthy, but he said he has made some minor adjustments on both ends of the court.
"We started reemphasizing some things we always want to do but had gotten away from, such as pushing the tempo," Beery said. "The biggest adjustment was getting healthy! Miles Tapija is back to full strength, most of the guys are fully back from sickness and Evan and Fabian are also healed up from minor injuries."
Tuesday night, Beery said his team "truly played unselfishly and selflessly." He described junior forward Miles Tapija as a monster on the boards in the first half of the game. Along with Tapija, Beery recognized his senior point guard Ashton Loring's performance.
"Ashton didn't score much but handled pressure very well and distributed the ball efficiently," Beery said. "I could go on, but everyone who played contributed last night."
With two strong performances in their rear view mirror the Marauders look to the games and the rest of the season ahead with matchups against No. 14 North Canyon, No. 13 Prescott, No. 48 North Pointe Prep, No. 39 (Div. II) Deer Valley coming in the next few weeks.
After falling to both Moon Valley and Bradshaw Mountain, the Marauders sit at 2-2 in Section IV, and Beery has emphasized that every section win is huge to his team.
"Our goal is to qualify for state, we're right on the "bubble" as it stands today," Beery said. "Our pathway to achieve that goal will be much easier if we qualify for the sectional tournament, which consists of six teams. However, with the AIA's ranking system formula--every win helps. So we've really tried to focus on taking any teams lightly, the strength of our schedule has also benefited us in that regard."
The Marauders don't necessarily play any weak teams the rest of their schedule so in the end that will help tremendously as they make their push for the state tournament.
But with the way the Marauders have been playing the sky is the limit if they continue to play to a high-level. Beery believes that his team needs to sustain their current philosophy for longer than two games to consider they have accomplished anything
"The past two games have been encouraging. Beery said. "Against Payson, it probably looked like a one-man show with Issac Escalante scoring 25 in the first half and dishing out several assists in the second. But the boys were all working together and communicated and moved the ball very effectively. We took very few low-percentage shots. Tuesday night was similar. I think we need to sustain this philosophy for longer than two games to truly say we've accomplished anything, but I cannot say enough about how impressed I've been with the leadership of Ashton, Evan (Snyder), & Fabian the past few weeks."
As the season boils down to the final few weeks it seems like the Marauders may have all the pieces in place to make a run to the state tournament, only time will tell though as they navigate a flurry of Division III Section IV games over the next couple of weeks.
Wednesday night divisional opponents Bradshaw Mountain and Prescott battled all the way through four-quarters with the Bears coming out on top 59-58 and remain undefeated in Section IV. The Marauders won't get another shot to take down the Bears but will face off with the Badgers at Prescott on January 12 at 7 p.m.
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