For more than 40 years, Salpointe Catholic High School could not quite break through and win a state championship in girls basketball. The Lancers won state titles in 17 other sports over that period — more sports than any other Tucson high school — but not in girls basketball, boys volleyball nor wrestling.
That all changed last week, when second-year coach Joe Luevano led the Lancers to the Class 4A championship, ending a streak that 12 Salpointe girls basketball coaching predecessors could not.
Salpointe almost seemed cursed in women’s hoops. In 2003, coach Pete Fajardo coached what was probably the school’s most potent girls basketball team ever to a 31-1 record and the state finals. That team, led by center Sybil Dosty, Tucson’s most highly-recruited girls basketball player of the last 25 years, then ran into 34-0 Gilbert Highland and lost the title game at the buzzer.
To his credit, Luevano — whose full-time job is as an orthopedic technician at a Children’s Adaptive Recreation Center — kept the Lancers sharp and on their game during a historic period as Tucson prep sports continue to diminish in participatory numbers and competitive balance.
Salpointe outscored opponents 1,749 to 869. It went 13-0 against Tucson opponents, winning by margins of 77, 60, 57, 56,55 and 53 points. The Lancers even routed once-powerful girls basketball programs such as Catalina Foothills 88-33, Canyon del Oro 74-21 and Mountain View 74-18.
Salpointe did not play a single-digits game against any Arizona team, winning state semifinal and final games by 13 and 17 points. Its four losses came in winter tournament events against opponents from Tennessee, Alaska and California.
Perhaps, like prep football in Arizona, this will someday lead to an Open Division for the state’s elite girls basketball programs. It isn’t 1995 any more.
ARTICLE BY GREG HANSON