It was hardly a knockout punch. Seton Catholic is still alive in the running for a girls basketball state championship after winning three straight titles in a couple different classifications.
But the Sentinels were dealt a blow as Saguaro beat No. 1 Seton, 46-31, for the Division II Section 3 championship at Coronado H.S. on Saturday.
The Sabercats, 22-9 this season, feel ready for the Division II state tournament which begins Feb. 13. Saguaro was whipped by Seton Catholic, 56-32, on Jan. 16. But that blowout also gave the Sentinels something to think about as they go for a fourth straight state title this month.
"We split with (Seton) last year, this year we lost by seven points and then had a defense meltdown in the second half," Saguaro coach Chris Young said. "(Saturday) we kept the focus. One of the keys was to not get in a half-court game, they are to good for that. We would like a higher re-seed (for the state tournament), but all we can do is keep playing good the way we have."
Seton Catholic (28-4) talented inside player Julie Barrello was held to 13 points as different players played solid defense on her. Heather Hoild added nine points.
"We mixed it up with different looks on her," Young added.
The first half was back-and-forth battle as the Sabercats and Sentinels had ten lead changes and four ties. Down 20-19 late in the first half Saguaro had a six-point run to lead 25-20 at intermission. Naomi Reyes hit a pair of free throws and on a breakaway stopped and popped a jumper and Jelani Huma then converted a steal into a layup.
A key point came early in the third quarter when Reyes had a steal, an assist on a hoop by Huma, and Huma hit a 3-pointer for a 30-20 lead which grew to 14 points. Saguaro outscored Seton 10-3 in the third quarter. Early in the final quarter Huma hit a dagger from behind the arc and the Sentinels could not make another run.
Huma led the way with a game-high 18 points as Reyes added 15 and Casey Rarrick added seven as the trio combined for 40 of the 46 points.
"It feels amazing, we can build on this effort," Huma said. "It is a confidence builder. "I like to pass and look for teamates, but if I am open I will shoot it."