Entering the 2017-18 season, there was some uncertainty as to how the Sedona Red Rock High School girls basketball team would be able to play.
In fact, weeks before the season started there almost was not a team at all.
Nonetheless the Scorpions ran their way to a 58-28 season debut win over Chino Valley High School on Tuesday, Nov. 28.
“When we started getting some energy out of our press and some steals we really just kind of became who we are, our identity started to show and we started running the floor and we feel good, we’ve got more energy, our legs are going and we’ve got some pep to our step,” Red Rock head coach Dave Moncibaez said.
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During the last two seasons, the team forced turnovers and ran the floor on its way to consecutive state tournament semifinals appearances.
Watching the opener against the Cougars, it appeared the team has not missed a beat. Senior guard Liza Westervelt scored a layup off of a turnover then pulled a smooth behind-the-back dribble in the lane before assisting fellow senior guard Jo Toscano on a three-pointer.
Westervelt found senior forward Brittany Medel for a score inside, then Medel returned the favor, off of another turnover, and Westervelt finished with a reverse layup. Red Rock led 9-0 not three minutes in.
The Cougars got on the board through a free throw and another bucket, but the Scorpions kept their legs moving. They forced 13 turnovers and led 20-3 after the first quarter.
Pressuring opposing ball handlers and anticipating passes fuels the onslaught of easy buckets. Sustaining that energy was a concern for Moncibaez heading into the season.
“Pretty impressed with our conditioning at this point. I think that played a major factor, they were able to run up and down the court and when we do that we’re kind of at our best,” Moncibaez said.
Red Rock sophomore forward Mary Westervelt received a pass from sister Liza to score on the team’s first possession in the second. Mary Westervelt, who last year played guard, and Medel make up the main inside presence this season after the departure of forwards Sophia Perry and Hannah Ringel to graduation.
“Mary is actually a really good post, she’s good for everything,” Medel said. “I don’t think we’re going to have a problem. Together we play great.”
When the Scorpions did play in a halfcourt set, it executed well, but lacked finishing. Chino Valley senior forward Felicity Stickrod was the tallest girl on the court, disrupting shots.
Improving inside finishing will be key moving forward.
“It’s one of the things we talked about in the locker room,” Moncibaez said. “Other than missing those easy ones, it’s just something that’s early season. We kind of give that as an excuse, but it can’t last forever.”
The starters came out of the game up 35-6 with 4:14 left in the second quarter, and at halftime the second unit held a 36-16 advantage.
Stickrod scored to open the second half. A 13-0 run by the Scorpions’ first unit reinflated the lead to 49-18 with little more than three minutes left, including a coast-to-coast bucket by Liza Westervelt, who finished with a team-high 19 points along with seven assists, unofficially.
“Out of that group I was actually pretty well pleased with how disciplined they were. We got a little out of position every now and then but they played pretty disciplined calling out plays, different presses. It was good for us to see that and test it in a game,” Moncibaez said.
Medel converted a three-point play to go up 58-20 with 52 seconds left in the third, and the second unit finished out the game with a running clock. The starters shot the three ball, one of the team’s strongest assets last season, a limited number of times. The team forced a total of 30 turnovers that turned into 33 points.
The team’s legs will be put to the test when it plays three games, against bigger schools, at home during the Red Rock Hoops Classic on Friday, Dec. 1. Its first game is set for 8 a.m. against 3A Pinon High School.