COTTONWOOD- The Mingus Marauders boys basketball team sealed at least a share of the Division III Section IV title Friday night with another convincing win.
This time the No. 44-ranked Fountain Hills Falcons were the victims as the Marauders took home a 78-65 victory.
Head Coach Dave Beery said it has been awhile since Mingus has played beyond the regular season, but the goal since the beginning of the season was to make the Division III State Tournament and that goal is all but sealed.
"Were real happy, were really proud of ourselves, at the start of the year our goal was to make it to the state tournament, were in a pretty good position to do that." Beery said. "It's not guaranteed until it's guaranteed but for right now we are where we want to be and we control our own destiny."
Friday night the Marauders were held in check early due to an aggressive and extended zone from the Falcons that helped the Falcons hold a four-point lead after the first quarter.
After sitting out the first-quarter due to receiving a technical foul in the previous game, senior guard Ashton Loring stepped on the court at the beginning of the second quarter and had an immediate impact, scoring 10 of his 13 points as the Marauders charged back to build a 10-point lead going into halftime. Beery saw the impact his senior guard made throughout the game.
"I thought he actually made a big difference when he came in," Beery said. "He saw the floor very well and got people the ball in the right spot where we got some easy shots."
As for the zone that the Falcons through at the fast-paced Marauders, the second-year Head Coach said it was good to get some real game time playing against a zone because no one has really tried that tactic against the sharp shooting Marauders.
"No one has zoned us all year because everyone knows we can shoot, so we just haven't had a lot of in game reps against a zone defense where we feel comfortable," Beery said. "They were really aggressive with it early on and it took us a little to figure that out early on."
Mingus was able to break down the zone though as they started knocking down shots after a rough first quarter. The Marauders struck from downtown 12 times throughout the game on the way to scoring 78 points.
Loring and back court mates Fabian Navarro and Evan Snyder all struck from downtown three times, and swing men Miles Tapija and Kyle Houston both hit two.
After the game Beery admitted that the Marauders will meet other teams like Fountain Hills that will try to slow them down, and it will be a focus in practice over the next week or so.
"The game gets a little more physical in the playoffs," Beery said. "We will probably focus a little more on executing in the half court because at some point we are going to run into teams that are just athletic as we are, so we have to be able to outwork them in other ways and that's been our focus in practice as of late."
With Section IV play finished for the Marauders, they will close out the season with two tough match-ups in No. 18-ranked Tuba City and No. 1-ranked Estrella Foothills.
Earlier this year, the Marauders took down the Tuba City Warriors in a 74-69 battle at the Boys NGS Basketball Tournament held at Page High School. With Tuba City, Beery knows they will be looking for a little bit of revenge.
"Tuba has been playing pretty well, I know Snowflake got them the other night but they are good, they are right behind us at the 18 and once you get above 16 you get that home game the first round of state," Beery said. "So they are in the same position as us, and we beat them earlier this year so they are going to be motivated to beat us. And it's a hostile environment up there, I love playing up there, it's fun. It's a little different and our kids haven't really seen that before so we are looking forward to that experience.
After their match up with Tuba City on February 2, the Marauders will face off with the Wolves on February 4. With facing off with the No. 1 team in Division III, Beery said it will be a good test of where his team is at as they head into the Sectional and State tournament.
"With Estrella it is more of a measuring stick to see where we are at," Beery said. "We can't get too worried about winning or losing that game. Obviously we want to win but if we go out and lose by 20 it's going to show us where we need to be to compete with a high caliber team heading into the playoffs because Estrella is definitely that talented. "
The Marauders have only lost one game since returning from Christmas break, which came against Deer Valley on January 13. Mingus will look to keep that streak alive as they head into their final two games next week.
Sectional tournament play will begin on February 10 at Washington High School in Phoenix.