Faces in the crowd — literally
Pueblo High cheer coach Maria Lopez made sure the players on the Warriors girls basketball team had something special to remember from Saturday, on top of playing at McKale Center.
Lopez had large custom-made posters for each of Pueblo’s eight players, similar to “big head” posters that originated at San Diego State basketball games, only the 20-by-30 inch photograph had the top half of the jersey on it, rather than just faces.
“I wanted to have Pueblo on it,” Lopez said.
The posters, glued to long wooden stakes, were held up in the stands during the game and then given to the players and their parents after Pueblo’s 43-30 win over Sunnyside.
Almost like McConnell to Gordon
The Cienega boys team gave a pretty good impression of the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday.
With just under four minutes left in the third quarter, senior point guard Shane Burton took the role of Arizona’s T.J. McConnell and tossed up a perfect alley-oop pass for junior forward Terrence Johnson.
Like Aaron Gordon, the UA’s freshman sensation, Johnson slammed it down with two hands and ignited the crowd. The play put Cienega up 48-37, and the Bobcats cruised to a 71-50 win over Mountain View.
Butts, Whyte catching the action
UA women’s basketball coach Niya Butts was in attendance Saturday, specifically to catch the Flowing Wells-Tucson girls game, she said. Also seen around McKale throughout the afternoon was former Arizona Wildcat and current Cienega girls assistant coach Davellyn Whyte, a four-time All-Pac 12 player. Whyte was recently inducted into the UA’s Ring of Honor.
Going out in style
Longtime Benson High faculty member James Driggers, the school’s athletic director and dean of students, was one of 10 community honorees Saturday at McKale. It was a fitting farewell for Driggers, who is retiring in May after spending 42 years at Benson.
The big number
Former Flowing Wells and Pima College star Abyee Maracigan, who led the Caballeros to a state title in 2008, played at the MLK Classic twice in her high school career. Saturday marked her third trip to the event. This time, she was an assistant for Flowing Wells coach Michael Perkins rather than a player.
UA-Cal forced change in schedule
The MLK Classic, in its eighth year at McKale, will likely move back to Martin Luther King Jr. Day next year, as it has in the past. The tournament was moved to Saturday this year because the UA women’s basketball team hosts Cal at 3 p.m. Monday.
The event is expected to have seven games as it did last year, according to TUSD athletic director Herman House, the event’s organizer.
House said the original plan was to have seven games this year, but they couldn’t because the event was moved from Monday to Saturday and McKale was only available for five games. He also said, depending on how everything turns out, they may consider moving the event to Saturday permanently.
“If this is a good event, we’ll definitely have that dialogue with the UA,” he said.
“Imagine what it was like for the UA game on Thursday — there was Sun Devil blood all over the floor.” – Seth Estes, a junior and team manager for the Willcox boys basketball team. Estes was referring to top-ranked Arizona’s 91-68 win over Arizona State, less than 48 hours before Willcox, ranked 18th in Division IV, pulled off a 53-50 upset against Benson, the No. 5 team in Division III.
Compiled by Daniel Gaona and Kyle Johnson