Sports Stories
The Sedona Red Rock High boys basketball team finished fourth out of 16 teams at the Blue Ridge White Mountain Holiday Classic Tournament from Dec. 28 to 30.
By Nick Ruland
Larson Newspapers

The Sedona Red Rock High boys basketball team finished fourth out of 16 teams at the Blue Ridge White Mountain Holiday Classic Tournament from Dec. 28 to 30.

The Scorpions won two of four games, defeating East Fork High 85-75 and Blue Ridge High 69-51 but losing to Sabino High 49-40 and Alchesay High 81-61.

Michael Krajnak was named to the all-tournament team by averaging more than 25 points a game.

Sedona played without lone true point guard Stephen Byrnes for the entirety of the tournament and also missed Matt Nazarian for a game after he suffered a pinched nerve in his lower back.

Nazarian appears to be day-to-day for the rest of the season, playing so long as he can manage the pain.

?I will take lots of painkillers. This is the most crucial part of the season,? Nazarian said.

Nazarian had difficulties jumping at the most recent practice.

Outside of the new injury and the absence of Byrnes, Head Coach Mike Krajnak was encouraged by his team?s play.

?I was pleased with how it went. We had a lot of time together and that was good,? Krajnak said.

On the court, Sedona used Sammy Holeyfield and Nick Reynolds as point guards. Both players were forced to learn on the job quickly as Sedona faced a lot of pressure.

?It was tough because we saw a lot of press,? Krajnak said.

Krajnak was also pleased with the play of power forward/ small forward hybrid Alex Stefanovich.

?It seems like he found the basket in that tournament,? Krajnak said.

Stefanovich averaged a little more than eight points a game.

The tournament was the last preparatory bout for regional play. Sedona will have 11 regional battles in 30 days to decide its fate.

The first test will come against a team that many consider the conference favorite — Estrella Foothills High on Saturday, Jan. 6.

Michael Krajnak believes the team needs to play more like it did last year on the defensive end of the court to be successful.

?We need to hustle,? Michael Krajnak said.

Stefanovich agrees.

?We have a young team, and we can do well in transition. We just have to stay strong and play good defense,? Stefanovich said.

Coach Krajnak will be stressing defensive intensity as a necessity for survival against the better teams in conference.

?We are not a real high-scoring team, so we have to keep the pressure up,? Coach Krajnak said.

The second key during regional play will be balance in scoring.

Though Michael Krajnak has shown the ability to carry the team offensively, the need has only arrived from his teammates being unable to efficiently contribute.

In the tournament, Michael Krajnak had nearly 60 percent of the team?s points in the two losses while only two other players reached double digits in both games combined. In the two wins, Sedona had 10 players with five points or more.

SRRHS will travel to EFHS then Parker High on Tuesday, Jan. 9, before returning home to play in the much-anticipated Fountain Hills High rematch at home on Thursday, Jan. 11.

Girls Get Win

The Sedona Red Rock High girls basketball team won one of four games at the Yvonne Johnson Memorial Tournament in Camp Verde on Dec. 28 and 29.

The girls were defeated by Round Valley High, Prescott High and Northwest Christian High before defeating Seligman High 50-46 in the final game.

?It feels good to get a win. We are getting better. We are starting to pick up on things better and become a family,? senior center Whitney Oestmann said.

The girls had 29 points at halftime and held on in the second half to secure their second win of the season.

Courtney Fitzpatrick had 13 points and Breanne Cunningham and Danny Jovanovich added double digits. Jovanovich and Fitzpatrick earned Harkins movie tickets from Head Coach Bob Murphy for getting double digit points and four offensive rebounds in the game — a stated pregame goal.

Murphy was also pleased with the play of his freshman core, who received substantial playing time.

Katie Adams, Rita Clancy and Ashley Lo Duca gave glimpses into the future as well as solid minutes in the present.

Sedona will need their help as they return to regional play starting Saturday, Jan. 6, with Estrella Foothills High at home.

Over the winter intermission, Murphy contemplated solutions to the team?s woes this season.

One thing the team will look to do during the upcoming regional schedule is play at a faster pace.

?I remembered that this summer we were always trying to keep it simple so they don?t have to think so much. It?s going to give us options. It will put the ball in scorer?s hands. We can get those quick looks, quick hitters,? Murphy said.

Sedona?s shooting problems have evolved into a mental issue.

?Our confidence just depends on the day. Our shots just don?t seem to fall in,? Fitzpatrick said.

Not that the girls haven?t been working hard to improve.

?In practice, we don?t practice jump shots, we just practice layups,? Fitzpatrick said.

?If you are shooting it 12 months of the year, it will probably go in more. It just breaks your heart. The easy shots have to go in more,? Murphy said.

While Sedona may at times be frustrated with their results near-basket, the players have a chance to use their repressed anger on the other end.

Sedona?s best offense will be its defense.

The hope is Sedona plays the kind of defense that creates turnovers and spacious outlets, allowing the offense to either outnumber their opponents in transition or play offense before the defense is fully set.

Evident in the tournament was the difference in shot making and confidence between Sedona and its opponents. Less visible was a contrast in physical ability or on-court instincts and awareness.

Sedona hopes to create more easy shots in the second half of the season, which could be a domino effect for confidence should they go in, ultimately netting more wins.

Whether that wish is realized or not, the girls on the team have been hardened by their first-half experiences.

?It?s always a hard thing to lose but it makes you stronger as a person. We are stronger on and off the court,? Oestmann said.