|Micah Nevarez throws up a three-pointer over Anthony Broyles. VVN/Travis Guy|
|Freshman Trevor Galloway.|
To say the Mingus boys' basketball team is hot right now would be an understatement. The Marauders are off to a 6-2 start, which includes a five-game streak, which is the best start to a season for Mingus Union since 2005-06.
"It feels good, it feels good," said head coach Mark Owens. "The kids have been working hard. That's just a product of the kids and their hard work. We put in a game plan, we write a practice plan, but at the end of the day, the kids are the ones that put in the time and put in the work and I'm definitely happy for them, because they deserve it."
After forgetting about the loss to Barry Goldwater, the Marauders rebounded in emphatic fashion and showed that the loss was an early season anomaly by racking up five wins before running into state contender Cortez High School.
The boys kicked things off against the Payson Longhorns. Going into the game, the Longhorns had scored at least 40 points in each of their seven outings. Well, the Marauders had a different idea and stifled Payson.
"I hadn't realized that [we held them under 40], but our guys did a really good job of executing our game plan ... and doing the little things that we worked on in practice," Owens said. "I felt like we were fine schematically, but we were missing some of those finer details on both ends of the court. In that game I felt like we were able to do the things that we wanted to do, so that was fun and a sight to see."
They handed Payson its first blowout loss, dowsing the Longhorns 71-37. Along the way, seniors Michael Harrison, Talon Walz and Bryant Briscoe led the team in scoring. Harrison tallied 27, Walz 15 and Briscoe 13.
With a big win in their pocket, the boys readied themselves for the Cage Classic, held at Wickenburg High School. The tournament was to give the boys an opportunity to get more games under their belt. As Owens put it, up to that point, the team had put in about a month's worth of practices, but only had three games to show for it.
Playing three games on the first day of the competition, the Marauders sliced through their competitors.
"To go out there and have a chance to compete and beat up on other people was really fun," Owens said. "The guys did a great job."
The first victim was Salome. The Marauders topped them 55-35.
Phoenix Christian was the next sacrificial lamb. The Cougars put up a little more of a fight. They only allowed one Marauders, senior Micah Nevarez, to hit double-digit scoring, 16, but it was not enough and they lost 52-45.
The Marauders closed out the opening day of games against the host school. This game was particularly interesting because the teams squared off in a regular season game last night, Dec. 17. So the tournament game provided a sneak peek at both teams. Mingus Union came out on top of the Wranglers 48-36.
Nevarez and Walz both notched double-digit outings against the Wranglers with 23 and 10 points respectively.
To get things going on the second day, the Marauders tipped off with Kingman Academy in the semi-final. This game was close like the Phoenix Christian game, but again, the Tigers did not have enough to overtake the Marauders, losing 52-46 behind Harrison's 15 and Nevarez's 12.
The win marked the Marauders' fifth win in a row, and sixth overall.
"I don't even think about it like that, a five-game win streak," Owens said. "What's even crazier, because we always talk about the task at hand, the next play and that being the most important play, I hadn't even really thought too much about a win streak, but I guess we did put together a five-game win streak, so that's cool. But its also kind of reflective of our attitude as far as the next play being the most important play."
For the final game, the Marauders had a tall order in front of them. They faced Cortez High School. The Colts are a team that made it to the quarterfinals of the Division III state championships in 2013, have two non-seniors on the team and are considered a shoo-in for this year's state championship game.
"Cortez, they're beyond a state contender," Owens said. "If they don't easily win the Division III state championship, I'd be surprised. They're a preseason No. 2, but that's a team that shouldn't have any games under 25-30 points, they're that good. They beat everybody by 30-plus the entire tournament, and again, it would be a shock if they didn't win the state championship, and win easily."
The Marauders fought, but they were not able to overcome the Colts. In the end, the Colts handled the Marauders 84-37, with three players scoring a majority of the points. Harrison led Mingus with 11; Briscoe added eight and sophomore Tristan Clark chipped in seven.
"There's no consolation in losing and we don't really do moral victories, but if you take a step back and look at the tournament as a whole, rather than losing in the championship game, we went 4-1 in a good tournament," Owens said. "We played some of the best basketball we have this year and in the past three seasons, so that in itself is a success. But we still have tons and tons of work to do. We're really young and inexperienced, so being able to play five game in two days was very beneficial for us. Now its back to work."
As said above, the Marauders traveled to Wickenburg yesterday and return home for their second home game of the season on Dec. 20 against Coconino. The game begins at 7 p.m. in the big gym.