GLENDALE, Ariz. –
The philosophy was simple.
Apparently, it applies even if your knee cap is busted.
That was clear Saturday morning when the Saguaro (Scottsdale)
girls basketball team was winding down the final minute of its first ever state title.
Senior Kaitlyn Quinn
was substituted into the Division II championship game at Jobing.com Arena with 34.2 seconds left in the No. 8 Sabercats eventual 49-38 win over No. 6 Flowing Wells (Tucson)
She took two steps onto the floor, stopped and shed a tear or three. As played resumed, Flowing Wells brought the ball up court, Quinn stayed stationary, but waved her hands in a mocking, defensive way.
"It was a really important, emotional moment for me," said Quinn, who suited up for the first time since she broke her right knee cap in the practice the day before Senior Night on Jan. 18. "Even though I couldn't play it was great to still be part of it."
The fact that she still had the presence of mind to put her hands up defensively just shows how ingrained second-year coach Chris Young has made defense since taking over the program before last season.
"If they don't score they can't win," junior Casey Rarrick
said. "We always talk about defense and that's what it took today."
Winning state titles at Saguaro is nothing new. The football team has won six state titles, the boys hoops team has three banners on the wall while the baseball team also has three rings.
Now, it's the girls' time.
"It's amazing. I don't think anyone outside of the Saguaro community thought we could make it this far," Rarrick
said. "It feels so good to be the first team ever at Saguaro to win it.
"Seeing we didn't have a banner in the gym like other (programs) was motivation."
Saguaro (26-7) led 35-32 heading into the fourth quarter but the Sabercats defense took over as Flowing Wells (29-5) was nearly shutout in the final eight minutes before tacking on some late points.
"We said we have eight minutes to win a state title," said Rarrick, who had a team-high 15 points and was tasked with stopping former youth teammate and Indiana recruit Lyndsay Leikem
(19 points, six in the second half). "We weren't going to be stopped."
The Sabercats, who only have two seniors on the team and none in the starting lineup, finished as runners-up in 1998 and 2006, but what stuck with the players more was the fact that they came into last year's tournament as the No. 2 seed only to fall in the Elite Eight to No. 7.
"We had the headline (from last year's loss) in our team room all year," said Young, who has gone 54-15 in two years with a program that had a .379 winning percentage in the five years before he was hired. "It was a constant reminder and we knew where we wanted to go."
Flowing Wells came into the game having held 11 straight opponents under 40 points and winners of 15 consecutive overall.
It just wasn't going to happen against a Sabercats team that won 13 of 14 games to end the season since losing to Seton Catholic 56-32 on Jan. 17.
Or the day before Quinn last suited up for Saguaro before stepping out on the floor and playing the type of defense expected of her one last time.
"She was in our rotation last year," Young said. "Girls passed her up this year and she never complained about it. She was a team player the whole time. That's why I care about her and we did what we could."Jason P. Skoda, a former Arizona Republic and current Ahwatukee Foothills News staff writer, is an 18-year sports writing veteran. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-272-2449.