Sahuaro’s Alyssa Brown, center, is drawing interest from several big schools. She’s averaging 22.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game for the Cougars, who are ranked No. 1 in Class 5A.

The Sahuaro girls basketball team suffered a tough loss Monday in a battle of top-ranked teams. East-side rival Sabino, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, beat the 4A Lady Cougars 62-50 at the MLK Classic at McKale Center, and the loss brought Sahuaro players to tears.

Alyssa Brown, the Lady Cougars’ leading scorer, hoped her team could bounce back Tuesday at Salpointe Catholic. Sahuaro fell short and lost 60-53.

Thursday was Sahuaro’s latest chance to break out of its funk, and the Lady Cougars (20-3) did just that, beating Canyon del Oro 69-44.

“More than anything, it’s mental,” Brown said. “I mean, we’ve got a couple physical injuries going on, but it’s all mental. Once you take a shot like that, you’ve got to just bounce back. It’s all mental.”

Brown was averaging 22.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, two assists and 3.5 steals in 22 games prior to beating CDO.

And she’s just a sophomore.

Coach Steve Botkin said Brown, who’s a student body class president and straight-A student, is one of the most coachable athletes he’s ever had and brings something special to the team.

“She brings fire. She brings tenacity. And I wouldn’t say no one else does, but she’s young and has played a lot of ball,” Botkin said.

“She’s only a sophomore, but you think of her as a senior just because of what she brings. She’s very mature.”

When asked when she started playing basketball, Brown said she was practically born on the court.

Brown was born into a sports family, so it was almost an expectation.

Her older sister played softball. Brown’s mother played high school basketball and volleyball and her father played basketball and football.

For Brown, there was never any question as to what sport she wanted to play. It’s always been about basketball.

“I grew up just around basketball,” Brown said. “I’d rather be in a gym than doing anything else, really. It’s just comforting, walking around watching games.”

Brown grew up playing on boys teams. It wasn’t until middle school that Brown started playing on girls teams and eventually stopped playing in boys teams in eighth grade.

“Playing against girls was kind of a big switch for me,” Brown said.

“I had to adjust because the physicality was definitely different.”

Learning to play with boys helped give Brown a different edge, she believes.

But while Brown would best describe herself as a competitive player who loves to win, she also loves the serenity basketball brings into her life.

The 6-foot-1-inch forward compared stepping onto the court to entering a safe zone.

“Anything going on — school, family, home, anything — on the court, it’s just different,” Brown said. “It’s like you’re in your own little zone. You just have our teammates, your opponents and the ball. There’s nothing else.”

Now, the Sahuaro sophomore is garnering the attention from Division I programs. While Brown hasn’t received any official offers, she’s been in contact with schools like Grand Canyon, Nevada, Michigan, Washington and Jacksonville State.

Although Brown hasn’t heard anything from Arizona, Brown said she may consider coming back to play at McKale Center — but as a collegiate athlete.

But she also kind of wants to explore other options.

“I mean, I love Tucson, but I want to venture out and have people say ‘oh, she came from a small town and did big things,’” Brown said.

Contact reporter Norma Gonzalez at 520-262-3265 or ngonzalez@tucson.com.