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At the end of every sports season, I like to recognize the local teams, players and coaches on a job well done. This past winter, there were plenty of great performances to chose from but here are my final picks.

I’ll start with my Team of the Year pick, which will go to the Camp Verde High School girls basketball team.

Under the tutelage of longtime Head Coach Mark Showers, the Cowboys finished the 2011-2012 season with a 27-6 overall record, making it all the way to the Division III state semifinals in Glendale 11 days ago.

The Cowboys lost to Page High School in the final four, but that doesn’t take away from what this Camp Verde team did this season. Page was the eventual state champion, making it slightly easier on Showers and his girls to swallow the loss. It’s always nice to say you lost to the state champ after exiting the playoffs.

Runner up for my Team of the Year award is the Camp Verde wrestling team.

Head Coach Bob Weir and his Cowboys won the Section I [Division IV] Championships, then followed up that performance with a second-place finish at the Division IV State Championships in Prescott Valley a week later.

My honorable mention Team of the Year pick goes to the Mingus Union High School girls soccer team. The Marauders finished the  season with an impressive 19-1-2 overall record, losing only to No. 4 Seton Catholic High School in the Division III quarterfinals, 1-0.

Moving on to my Surprise Team of the Year award, I’d like to nominate the Mingus boys soccer team and Head Coach Cade Densmore.

Densmore and the Marauders finished the season with a 10-4 overall record and qualified for the Division III state playoffs as a No. 6 seed.

Mingus lost a heart breaker Jan. 31 to No. 11 Gilbert Christian High School after a controversial call, 2-1. The play at the end of the match can even be seen on the Internet, and the coaches from Gilbert Christian pushed to go to overtime, but the match was called.

Despite the bitter ending, the Marauders were one of the best teams in the state this season and had their best year in a long time under Densmore.

My runner up Surprise Team of the Year award would go to the Camp Verde boys basketball team.

The Cowboys finished their winter campaign with a 16-12 overall record and qualified for the Division III state playoffs. Camp Verde’s biggest win of the season, 59-57, came against Division II Prescott High School on Jan. 6.

Camp Verde eventually lost to Valley Christian High School in the state tournament, 68-53, but having lost the best two players in the Verde Valley to graduation the year before, it was certainly a monumental achievement.

Seniors Jake Spleiss, Johnny Hudson and Brian Hudson had excellent seasons and were a big reason the Cowboys had a surprising 2011-2012 campaign.

My honorable mention pick for the Surprise Team of the Year pick goes to the Sedona Red Rock High School girls basketball team. The Scorpions finished 16-12 overall and qualified for the Division III state tournament before losing to Window Rock High School, 63-31.

Now for my individual awards. For my Player of the Year award, I name senior Mingus girls soccer player Torey Braly. Braly scored 35 goals this year while leading her team to a 19-1-2 overall record. Braly scored 39 in 2011, making it 74 goals in two years, easily the best performance of any girls soccer player in Mingus history.

Runner up for the Player of the Year award goes to Lila Hickey. A Camp Verde girls basketball player, Hickey was one of the most dominant big girls in Division III this season and was a big reason the Cowboys made it to the final four.

Receiving my honorable mention title for Player of the Year is Mingus boys basketball player Rashonn Montgomery. He was one of the leading scorers for the Marauders and really helped turn that program around quickly. Montgomery is a junior this year, so look for better things from the point guard next year.

Last but not least, my Coach of the Year considerations. Darren Gagnon from Camp Verde boys basketball is my award winner. Gagnon took the Cowboys to the state playoffs after graduating a ton of talent in 2010-2011. He got this year’s team to play together, which is why the Cowboys were so successful.

My runner up Coach of the Year award goes to Tina Hawes for Sedona girls basketball. Hawes did an excellent job managing the Scorpions, and she looks for an even bigger 2012-2013.

I’d also like to hand out an honorable mention Coach of the Year to first-year boys basketball Head Coach Mark Owens at Mingus. The team went 10-16 this season, and since the Marauders have made a habit of winning only two or three games a year in the recent past, a 10-win season is only the beginning for Owens.

Congratulations to all the award winners on an excellent winter.


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