Girls basketball: Freshmen form Sahuaro's spine

Benjamin, Harden add something 'special' to charging Cougars
2013-01-25T00:00:00Z Girls basketball: Freshmen form Sahuaro's spineJason Harris Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 25, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Sahuaro freshmen Sydney Harden and Reazsha Benjamin competed against each other when they were younger.

Now they start together on the same varsity squad.

Harden and Benjamin have outscored the opposing team on their own in six of the 22 games Sahuaro has played. The tandem has also combined to score 20 or more points in just over two-thirds of their games.

The Tucson natives account for 40 percent of their team's scoring. They've been huge for the Cougars (19-3), who are ranked third in Division II.

"I got a chance to see them play against each other and it was a lot of fun," coach Steve Botkin said. "As I watched them play I knew they were special."

The Star sat down with the duo and their coach to find out more:

Who they are

Harden: The 5-foot-11-inch Harden is a major post presence. She also brings a bit of flair to the court, even if you can't always see it.

"Don't laugh, but if I'm wearing short socks, they're not allowed to match," Harden said. "The right (one) has to be solid, the left must be a pattern."

Harden continues to carry the Cougars torch, taking over for her sister Olivia, a tenacious three-year varsity starter who graduated a year earlier.

Benjamin: Like Harden, Benjamin has family ties to Sahuaro. Her mom went there, and although she didn't play basketball, she always hoped her daughter would be a Cougar. Benjamin gave up volleyball and track after junior high to focus on basketball.

Botkin said the 5-foot-6-inch Benjamin may be able to dunk - like her favorite athlete, LeBron James - in a few years if she keeps working at it.

What they've done

Harden: She's nearly averaging a double-double at 14 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, and her numbers continue to rise. Harden has scored 14 or more points in eight of her last 10 games. Her season high of 22 came against Catalina.

Said Botkin: "We have a couple good posts here and there, but nothing that consistently got a double-double - and this one is doing it as a freshman."

Benjamin: She earned a starting spot with a solid showing in her first summer of travel ball with Sahuaro. Benjamin's older teammates chant: "That's our freshman," from the bench when she makes big plays - which is often.

Benjamin ranks fourth on the team with 6.9 points per game, and is third in both rebounds (4.9) and assists (1.7) per game. Her 2.1 steals per game are second among Cougars. She also shoots 46 percent from the field, tops on the team.

Looking ahead

Harden: The future looks bright for Sahuaro girls hoops.

"I want to improve, even after the seniors leave," she said. "I want the team to still be together and as good and hopefully better than we are this year."

Benjamin: The freshman is a little more reserved and was all business when asked about her aspirations.

"I just want to help out the team," she said. "Whatever I can do to keep us winning and keep us close as a team."

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