FLAGSTAFF - The (13) Camp Verde girls' basketball team defeated the (4) Safford Bulldogs Saturday, 48-21, in the second round of the Division III state tournament at the Northern Arizona University Skydome.
"We had a game plan very similar to the last game we played; we wanted to shut down their best player [No. 14 Jordan Abalos] who averages over 20 points a game," said Camp Verde head coach Mark Showers. "Everything was built around shutting her down, and we did. I think that frustrated them, and we were able to manufacture some fast breaks and get some easy baskets. It was nice to see us hit some outside shots, and that softened up their defense. Katie Wilson took care of the defensive boards, limiting them to one shot."
Scoreless for the first two minutes, the game started slow for both teams. It looked like playing in front of over a thousand people in an arena was a bit foreign for both squads, so it took them a while to settle in. The first quarter ended with the Cowboys up 8-5.
A 10-point run at the end of the first and start of the second quarters got things rolling for Camp Verde. The Cowboys clicked simultaneously with success shooting from the perimeter and around the basket.
The Cowboys won the second quarter 17-4, as they matched their own strong team defense with execution offensively. They moved the ball with purpose on fast breaks and were patient in the half-court set. Maddy Showers hit two three pointers in the second quarter, adding to the Cowboys' surge.
"The last two games were a great opportunity for Maddy because the opposing teams ran a zone against us," said Mark Showers. "I know she can shoot the basketball, so we put her out there and gave her the green light. She's really come a long way in the last two or three weeks. She's probably the most improved player on the floor for us, and it's all confidence."
Winning Saturday earned the Cowboys an opportunity to play Tuesday at Tim's Toyota Center against the (21) Chinle Wildcats. Chinle beat the (12) Benson Bobcats in Benson, then beat (5) Thatcher in Flagstaff before the Cowboys played Safford.
At this point, it's safe to say the seeding numbers mean very little. The No. 3, 4, 5, and 6 seeds of the Division III girls basketball state tournament all toppled Saturday in Flagstaff.
Camp Verde faces a formidable opponent in Chinle, even if they're a 21 seed. They outworked Thatcher with intense full-court pressure and great court vision.
Camp Verde does have a size advantage inside over the Wildcats, so Lila Hickey and Katie Wilson could come up big for the Cowboys again.
Wilson ripped 14 boards against Safford, and the duo of Hickey and Wilson played great interior defense, tallying eight blocks together.
Last year the Cowboys lost to Pima in the state playoffs at Tim's Toyota Center by one point. Wilson's last-second attempt to win the game almost went in; the ball went halfway down and rimmed out.
This year the Cowboys have the same starting five, but they've improved with experience, and Wilson has her mind set on rectifying last year's loss with a win Tuesday.
"I know for sure I want to knock my free throws down because that was a huge part of the loss last year," said Wilson. "It's been hard on me over the last year, especially that last shot that went in and out. Heartbreaking."
Wilson said for her team to win Tuesday they need to break down Chinle's full court pressure and play Cowboys basketball, not fall into playing the style the Wildcats want them to play.
A win Tuesday would send the Cowboys to the final four at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, and would top last season's outcome.
Gallery: CV girls basketball vs Safford