Sabercats Outmanned in Crucial Loss: Three Things We Learned

9 months ago Andrew Luberda 0

All losses hurt, but they’re increasingly devastating to a team that held a nine-point lead entering the final quarter and is flirting with the last of 24 playoff berths in the conference.

STFHS senior Gabe Martinez (15) scores two of his team-high 21 points last Tuesday night. Photo: Kelli Luberda.

Such is the feeling for the now No. 27-ranked San Tan Foothills boys’ basketball team following 60 – 56 loss at home to No. 18 Arizona College Prep on Jan. 23.

“I’m still proud of our young men, they played really hard,” San Tan Foothills head coach Joe Galish said afterwards. “Sometimes you just have to give it up to the other team credit for their performance.”

The Cats held a 29 – 26 lead at the half and increased their lead in the opening minutes of the third quarter behind some hot three-point shooting from freshman Isaac Lujan and sophomore Joseph Padilla. By the end of the quarter, the Cats were up by nine, 47 – 38.

Knights’ guard Habacuc Ortiz is listed at 6-feet, 235 pounds, and looks the part of a football player. The linebacker-looking junior scored a game-high 22 points, most of them in the fourth quarter, helping his team to the come-from-behind win that put the Cats’ playoff aspirations in jeopardy.

Arizona College Prep outscored San Tan Foothills 22 – 9 in the final quarter. Ortiz, combined with difficulty breaking the Knights’ press were the difference down the stretch.

“They flushed us a little bit,” Galish said about his team’s nervous play. “I’m proud of us and the things that we did, we just have to get better.”

 

 

San Tan Foothills Leaderboard

 

Kevin Tucker (1) trying to avoid the Knights’ trap in last Tuesday’s game. Photo: Kelli Luberda.

Points:  Gabe Martinez – 21, Joseph Padilla – 12, Kevin Tucker – 10

Assists:  Nick Tucker – 3, K. Tucker – 2

Rebounds:  Martinez – 9, K. Tucker – 3

Three things we learned:

Sophomore Joseph Padilla (10) splits three Knights’ defenders for a layup. Photo Kelli Luberda.

Man amongst boys – Galish acknowledged Ortiz played like “a man.” The Cats simply didn’t have a player that could match Ortiz’ strength and power, which he used repeatedly to get to the block, where he was most effective. “We need a little more help under the basket with our interior game,” the Cats’ head coach said.

Tough start to season-defining week – Last Tuesday’s game was the first of three-straight games against teams ahead of the Cats in the rankings. By the end of the week, following losses to No. 12 Gilbert Christian and No. 16 Leading Edge Academy – Gilbert, the Cats find themselves on the outside looking in at the most recent playoff projections. Winnable contests this week against lower-ranked Arete Prep and Gilbert Classical Academy give the Cats a slim chance of securing a playoff berth. “At the end of the day, we just have to be a better team,” Galish said.

 

Freshman guard Isaac Lujan (20) dribbles around a Knights’ player during last Tuesday’s game. Lujan scored six points in defeat. Photo Kelli Luberda

Guard HS? – The future success of the San Tan Foothills basketball program is hitched to six guards, including three sophomores and a pair of freshmen, who all receive significant minutes as starters or off the bench. Galish said Kevin Tucker (So), Nick Tucker (So), Jimmy Brooks (Fr), Joseph Padilla (So), Isaac Lujan (Fr), and Bryant Lopez (Jr) all have high basketball IQ’s. “I just believe good guard play can win you a lot of basketball games. I believe we have excellent guards and because we do we’re always going to be in every game, and every game is going to be competitive.”