PHOENIX — Salpointe Catholic High School won its first ever state championship in girls basketball on Monday night, beating Flagstaff 65-48 in the 4A championship game at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Lancers lost in the title game last year, but made it back and finished the job this time.
“It feels incredible," head coach Joseph Luevano said. "My kids go to school every day with state champions in soccer, softball, volleyball—every other female sport at Salpointe. And this is just so meaningful for them to bring the first one."
The No. 2 seed Lancers overcame a slow start and a physical Eagles team that got a boost from large, vocal contingent of Eagles fans that made the trip.
“I think the noise from the fans really rattled us at the first," Luevano said. "Once we got settled and we started pressing them, we started swinging back and everything started going our way.”
The Lancers won the second quarter 23-4 to take control of the game. Their size advantage was a difference maker: Salpointe out-rebounded Flagstaff 52-24.
Freshman phenom Taliyah Henderson had 14 points and 16 rebounds.
“It just felt like a good relief, like we accomplished something, like our goal was complete," she said. "Me and my teammates put in the work to do this, so it’s exciting.”
“She’s got an incredibly high ceiling," Luevano said of Henderson. "I’m just very lucky to work with a kid with her mentality and ability.”
Senior point guard Kylee Callahan led the Lancers with 19 points.
“I am so unbelievably grateful for our freshmen, I’m so unbelievably grateful for our past players," she said. "They technically built us to be the players we are now. We needed to take that road to get here.”
“We have to enjoy this. We have to make sure that we don’t take this for granted," Luevano said. "You never know, this could be our only one. But, I mean, our goal is to always work for one. And as long as we’re at Salpointe, that’s what we’re trying to compete for.”
On the same court in the nightcap, the Salpointe boys basketball team lost a hard-fought final against Mesquite High School of Gilbert, 64-58. The Lancers fought to extend the game and make a comeback, but could not string together enough takeaways and made baskets down the stretch to erase the defecit.
“That’s the hardest thing in that locker room is saying bye to kids that you’ve known for four years," said first-year head coach Eric Castillo, who spent 17 years as an assistant coach for Salpointe. "[Their] families are fantastic, so it’s just, it’s sad. It’s sad for the coaching staff, it’s sad for the kids. It’s a pretty somber locker room. But they played their butts off and came up a little short tonight.”
Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.