It is no secret Saguaro’s Jessica Hammer is a bigtime player. Teams have learned that her teammate Della Rhodes can also put up big numbers. Not much, though, was known about Ashley Haugo — until Tuesday night.
Looking dominant underneath against a much smaller team, Haugo scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lead the Sabercats to a 76-47 victory over visiting Tucson Sunnyside in their first game in the 4A state girls basketball tournament. With the victory, the Sabercats (17-11) advance to a game in the round of 16 tonight at Flagstaff Sinagua.
"Haugo, she came through," said Saguaro coach Brent Carter. "She was high on both aspects (points and rebounds)."
Considering the final score, it is hard to believe Saguaro got off to a slow start. The Sabercats led only 13-11 after the first quarter before gaining their composure. The start was similar to how the Sabercats came out last week in the East Sky Region tournament.
"The past couple of games we’ve been kind of like that," said Hammer, who led the Sabercats with 23 points. "I think everyone is kind of nervous because all these games are so important, especially this one because it’s do or die."
Carter doesn’t expect those jitters to reappear tonight, at least not for his team.
"That’s jitters anyone gets who goes to state," said Carter.
"We’ll be fine tomorrow to start the game. We’ll let Sinagua have those firstgame jitters. It just takes a while to start off. We finally got things under control."
Once the Sabercats got rolling, they didn’t look back. They led 29-19 at halftime and 48-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
The problem for Sunnyside (17-12) besides its lack of height was an inability to convert shots, even many open ones. The Blue Devils’ only player who had much success shooting was Betern Valenzuela. She finished with 23 points, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter.
Burying a team gives the Sabercats momentum for t oni gh t, according to Hammer.
"It was definitely a confidence build," said Hammer, "that’s for sure."
It wasn’t all giggles for Hammer after the game.
The Sabercats won’t play any more home games in the tournament, so the home career of Hammer, a fouryear starter, is over.
"It’s sad, it’s very sad," said Hammer. "I’m so used to having all the home fans. It feels weird."