Before the start of the season, when asked about the Central Region perhaps getting more competitive, Sedona Red Rock High School girls basketball senior guard Liza Westervelt made things clear.
“If there’s one team I will refuse to lose to, it’s Camp Verde,” Westervelt said. “That’s the one team that I hate to lose to.”
In her first game against the Verde Valley rivals, she had 27 points, including 25 in the first half on nine for nine shooting and six for six from beyond the arc, en route to a 62-36 Scorpions win on Tuesday, Jan. 9.
After graduating two key pieces from last season, in addition to some players electing not to return this year, it left the defending Central Region champions with a short bench and the potential for a trap game.
In the end, it was the Scorpions’ experience, starting four seniors and a sophomore, that eventually overwhelmed the young Camp Verde team.
After a slow start, Red Rock, now on a five-game winning streak, outscored Camp Verde 21-11 in the second quarter and 20-6 in the third.
“We really couldn’t get into our running game, that’s what it was, and finally we capitalized on some of their mistakes. It really didn’t take until the second half where we had four, maybe five quick boom, boom, boom scores,” Red Rock head coach Dave Moncibaez said. “I told the girls in the beginning, we’re the more experienced team, and they’re young and hungry, so if you take it out of them early, they could fall apart. Not that they really fell apart, but we took the wind out of their sails.”
Red Rock sophomore forward Mary Westervelt opened the scoring from the elbow before Liza Westervelt blocked a Cowboys shot and then hit her first triple. As the quarter went on, the lead swelled to 11-2 before the Cowboys settled down, finding room to score inside through six-foot-tall sophomore center Jacy Finley and freshman forward Maya Hedges. Cowboys sophomore guard Amanda Lozanilla hit a three, and No. 3-ranked Red Rock led 14-9 after the first.
No. 6 Camp Verde was most dangerous when it got the ball inside to Finley, the tallest player on the court.
“Definitely [Finley’s] height was difficult,” senior forward Brittany Medel said. “Just trying to not let her get the ball I guess.”
Lozanilla cut the deficit to two with another three-pointer to open the second, but the Scorpions began to pick up steam. Liza Westervelt hit back-to-back threes, then went coast-to-coast, stepping around Finley for a reverse layup to make it 22-12 in the blink of an eye.
“I don’t know, it was kind of one of those days where you’re just kind of like ‘Oh, the ball’s going in’ so you keep shooting,” Westervelt said. “I feel like it’s always a close game no matter the differences in skill level, it’s just a rivalry game, so it’s always hard. We had to come out strong, and we definitely pulled through in the second half.”
Sedona Red Rock senior guard @liza_westervelt talks about her 27-pt performance (25 first half 9-9 shooting 6-6 from 3) and her motivation against rival Camp Verde #SedonaSports pic.twitter.com/UZIymEUDJA— Daniel Hargis (@d_harg) January 10, 2018
After a timeout, Camp Verde reduced the lead to six, but another 13-6 Red Rock run to close out the quarter made it 35-20 at halftime. The momentum continued in the third quarter. Scorpions senior guard Chenoa Crans, who has played in a limited role due to injury, scored five straight points to make it 44-24 with 3:06 left.
Red Rock senior guard Jo Toscano finally calibrated her shot, following up Crans’ streak with a triple. At the end of the third, the hosts led 55-26.
Not allowing the Cowboys to get into an offensive rhythm was key.
“If they hit a few more shots, boom, they’re right back in the game. It changes their mentali
ty, it hurts our mentality and then we’re kind of playing that game,” Moncibaez said. “They weren’t able to get into the game, and we were able to finally, eventually pull away.”
The Scorpions bench saw out most of the final quarter.
Red Rock has played most of the year with only a five- or six-player rotation, taxing for a t
eam that thrives on running the floor. So far, it has not proved to be much of an issue.
“It’s tiring physically, but it’s really hard on you mentally because you can’t play to your full aggressiveness, I guess,” Liza Westervelt said.
The team traveled to Flagstaff on Friday, Jan. 12, where it beat Northland Preparatory Academy 56-21 to improve to 3-0 in Central Region play.
Note: This story was updated on Saturday, Jan. 13, to include the score from Friday night's game.
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