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The girls entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed after losing to Wickenburg High 37-31 and Fountain Hills High 57-46 in the regional tournament.

By Nick Ruland
Larson Newspapers
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The Sedona Red Rock High girls basketball team was eliminated from the state playoffs by losing to Coolidge High 69-34 at the Northern Arizona University Walkup Skydome on Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the first round of the state tournament.

The girls entered the tournament as the No. 4 seed after losing to Wickenburg High 37-31 and Fountain Hills High 57-46 in the regional tournament.

Coolidge High was the No. 1 seed. With a 13-1 conference record before the tournament, it was apparent CHS had all the tools for a state championship run.

The girls may have thought NAU?s Lumberjacks had mistakenly shown up for practice.

During pregame warm-ups, the size differential between the squads was substantial. CHS features three players taller than 6?2??, including 6?4?? Megan Moss. Sedona?s tallest player is Courtney Fitzpatrick at 5?9??. CHS had seven players taller than SRRHS? tallest player.

Coolidge?s guards looked old enough to rent cars to the game, let alone attend the university.

Sedona was not intimidated.

CHS played the tightest-man defense the Scorpions had faced all year to start the game. Sedona did not crumble.

Fitzpatrick knocked down a three-point shot after CHS opened the game with two quick baskets.

Bobbi Hillman followed with a steal on defense, though SRRHS could not capitalize.

Sedona matched CHS? superior size and skill with gritty physical play.

Breanne Cunningham, when pushed, pushed back. The girls hit the boards underneath as Whitney Oestmann and Katie Adams gave the team second-chance opportunities.

After Cunningham made two free throws to make it a 11-5 deficit, Coolidge made a 22-0 run.

The difference was not the effort or the quality of shots between the two teams. Many of Sedona?s attempts were inside the paint off Cunningham penetration.

The difference was shot-making. Coolidge displayed the skill and the gym time that allows for jump-shot conversions.

As has been the problem throughout the year for SRRHS, the girls couldn?t throw the rock into the ocean. Though with a seemingly endless backdrop, it may have seemed like they were shooting into space.

CHS did not suffer from vision problems.

CHS hit four threes during its run and most of the makes were jump shots.

Down 33-5, Sedona did not pack it up.

Little-used freshman Rita Clancy came off the bench without fear.

Clancy knocked down a three pointer, which initiated a 15-8 SRRHS run in the middle quarters.

Clancy impressed many of the opposing media members with her speed, quickness and tenacity.

Clancy set up a Fitzpatrick three-pointer and followed with a steal and coast-to-coast layup to end the half.

The second half was highlighted by a Fitzpatrick rejection on one of CHS? most athletic players on a layup attempt.

The swat was a clean and mean block even the CHS fans admired with moans.

Cunningham finished with a nice second half, finally converting on her shot attempts and free throws.

Cunningham led the team in its final game with 13 rebounds and 12 points.

?They didn?t play [intimidated]. I think they looked at Breanne [Cunningham] to see her body language, and they fed off that,? SRRHS Head Coach Bob Murphy said.

The second and third quarter run, after falling into a deep hole, followed by playing evenly afterward, was indicative of Sedona?s season as a whole.

SRRHS started the season 2-13 while looking completely lost on the court.

The players finished the regular season on a 8-5 run, including a dramatic win over No. 1 3A West team Parker High.

Murphy felt that many of the improvements came from the team buying in to what the coaching staff was teaching.

?You see results and improvement and it becomes evident that you are on the right track. Then you have a snowball running down the hill,? Murphy said.

The girls will miss lone graduate Oestmann?s [6.25 points per game, 9.6 rebounds per game] rebounding, defense and soft touch inside the free throw line, but the team will return a promising core of players.

Fitzpatrick improved her numbers from last season with 15.2 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.5 steals per game and should be an all-region lock.

Fitzpatrick was the girls? most versatile offensive weapon with three-point range and accuracy. Fitzpatrick gives the girls one of the most dynamic front-court players in the region with her quickness and coordination, and she could explode her senior

season if she continues to work on her scoring arsenal.

Adams was the team?s best offensive rebounder as a freshman and did not waver during crunch time.

Danni Jovanovic, at times, was the girls? best player on the court and could be surrounded by two of her sisters next season.

The girls? strength could be in the back-court.

Clancy, Ashley Lo Duca and Cunningham [8.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.2 assists per game] may be the quickest guard trio in the region. Playing two of them at the same time showed potential in 2007, though Lo Duca and Clancy have to earn trust from Murphy to become full-time players.

Hillman and Holmann are glue players who give tough, selfless and hustle plays.

?You have got a core of players that are excited about basketball. The whole [state] experience was so important. We said it is not automatic to get here, you really have to work hard and get better. Everybody else in the region is young and going to get better, so it will be interesting,? Murphy said.


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