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A strong first half performance was all the No. 6 seed Sedona Red Rock High School girls basketball team needed to get a 53-43 first round victory over No. 11 San Carlos High School in the 2017 Arizona Interscholastic Association 2A State Championship on Friday, Feb. 17 at the Prescott Valley Event Center.

That is because the second half proved to be a stark contrast to the first for the Scorpions [28-1, 10-0 2A Central]. Foul trouble and 20 second-half turnovers gave the Braves all of the momentum, who came within nine points on two occasions in the fourth quarter.

“It’s fortunate that we had such an outstanding first half, which, you know, allowed those mistakes to hurt us, but not lose the game for us,” Red Rock head coach Dave Moncibaez said.

Red Rock shut San Carlos out in the second quarter while adding 18 points of its own to break open a 33-12 lead at halftime. The Scorpions’ run-and-gun style of play was taking its toll on the Braves in the first half, who committed 14 turnovers that were turned into 15 points.

Scorpion senior forward Hannah Ringel, who finished with a game-high 18 points, scored eight of the team’s first 11 points in the second.

“I guess my motivation was that I was not going to let this be my last game ever, so I wanted to try a little bit harder,” Ringel said.

Up 40-19 in the third quarter, Red Rock junior guard Liza Westervelt picked up her third and fourth fouls in less than one minute, forcing her to the bench. That was when the tide turned in favor of San Carlos, who ended the quarter on a 9-3 run.

Turnovers and overall uneasiness on the part of the Scorpions added fuel to the Braves’ fire.

“Once they started getting momentum, we started puckering up a little bit, and it took us off of our game completely,” Moncibaez said.

The Braves were down 11 when Westervelt fouled out, almost halfway through the fourth. The populous crowd, obviously in support of the Braves being that the boys team was to play right after the girls, came alive.

“I did not play smart,” Westervelt said. “I have to learn to not do that, that’s definitely letting my team down, so that’s not going to happen again.”

The Scorpion lead was cut to nine at 47-38, but at the same time the team went into the bonus. Earlier in the season, free throws were a problem for the team.

It made nine of 16, including two of four from Scorpion senior forward Sophia Perry down the stretch to keep San Carlos at an arm’s length. Perry was the primary ballhandler in Westervelt’s absence.

“I’d put her against any forward to go one-on-one, and I always pick her to win,” Moncibaez said. “We put the ball in her hands and said ‘Here, get fouled and we’ll make it on the free throw line.’”

The Braves curiously did not continue to foul Red Rock in the dying minutes down just nine points, and the team came away with the victory.

The Scorpions will take on No. 14 Many Farms High School, who upset No. 3 Scottsdale Christian Academy in their first round matchup by a score of 35-27, in the quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 18 at the Prescott Valley Event Center.

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