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Some people have dealt with holiday lethargy this week, including the No. 3 Sedona Red Rock High School girls basketball team.

Not for long though as the defending Central Region champion secured a 55-25 road win over No. 12 Paradise Honors High School in the first game of its title defense on Tuesday, Jan. 2.


“I told the girls it’s going to be tough after a two week lay off,” Red Rock head coach Dave Moncibaez said. “Getting into that game speed again we kind of struggled, but after our legs started going, things started going better for us.”

After more than two weeks since their last tightly contested game, it took the Scorpions [4-0, 1-0 Central Region] a period of time to get going. They eventually led 20-7 after the first quarter, and from then on it was business as usual.

Senior guard Liza Westervelt scored a game-high 29 points in just three quarters, 15 of which on three-pointers. Three of those triples came in the third quarter when Westervelt took advantage of the space the Panthers
[5-3, 0-1] afforded her.

The first of those three came with 4:04 left in the third quarter, marking the first basket scored by either team in the half.

After going up 36-16 at halftime, Red Rock toned its defense down. Rather than running its regular three-quarter-court zone and picking off long passes — creating easy transition scores — it sat back in a regular halfcourt zone. Nonetheless, Paradise Honors scored just two points in the quarter.

Part of that switch was because Moncibaez could not figure out what defense the Panthers were running, with what they hardly played halfcourt defense in the first place.

“We wanted to play smarter, move the ball, actually get a real feel for the defense, because we were kind of run-and-gun for a while,” Moncibaez said. “We slowed it down to kind of see what we could do.”

The slower defensive pace also led to a slower offensive rhythm. As the competition gets stiffer, especially in the state tournament, being able to score in ways other than transition layups will likely prove key.

“That’s just the thing: Getting a feel for defenses and just try to run some plays, see what was successful. Some of our plays were not. Some of them that I didn’t think that would be were actually more successful,” Moncibaez said. “We got a good read out of it and made some adjustments and different play calls that we normally wouldn’t do in that situation, and they actually worked out for us.”

During last season’s winter break, the Scorpions won the Lady Badgers Winter Classic in Prescott, defeating two Conference 5A and two 4A teams. After only practicing during this year’s break, there was an adjustment period to playing in an official game.

“I was dying, as you could have seen from my very red face,” Westervelt said. “It’s just not the same as a game, and we didn’t have a tournament. We were just more out of shape than rusty playing wise.”

A combination of starters and substitutes took the floor to finish out the game in the fourth quarter.

Red Rock has a 5:30 p.m. start on Friday, Jan. 5, at Chino Valley High School. In the season opener on Nov. 28, it beat the Cougars 58-28.

The next Central Region test comes in the form of No. 6-ranked Camp Verde High School. The Verde Valley rivals will square off at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 9, at Doc Adams Gymnasium.

“We feel good. As long as we play our game and stay out of foul trouble and not be too much in a hurry we should be OK in regards to playing them,” Moncibaez said. “We just definitely have to take care of the ball, and we’ve got to run, that’s our game plan, and we’re not going to change that.”

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