Undisciplined play is the downfall of most teams. You can’t usually overcome opponents when you are beating yourselves with repeated mistakes.
That was the concern for Goodyear Estrella Foothills coach girls’ basketball coach Matthew Johnson as he watched Thursday’s AIA 4A Conference play-in game against Peoria unfolding.
“I told them before the game, during the game, and even near the end and they didn’t listen,” Johnson lamented about his team’s execution.
“Regardless of who we play, we have to be disciplined and we weren’t.”
Fortunately for Johnson’s troops, the Wolves managed to withstand a relentless bunch from Peoria enough for a 56-47 win Feb. 13 at the Wolves’ Den in Estrella Mountain.
The win allowed the No 11 seed Wolves (25-8) to advance to field of 16 bracket to decide the 4A Conference State Champs. The bracket will be revealed on Saturday at 4 pm.
While Johnson didn’t like what he saw throughout most of the contest, the Wolves did manage to lead wire-to-wire thanks in part to a hot start and a lot of Peoria turnovers.
Estrella Foothills' defense managed to force a total of 13 Peoria turnovers in the first half alone (25 for the game). The swarming defense, coupled with a Samantha Stockton 3-pointer (one of three for her on the night), gave the Wolves a commanding 15-5 lead with 3:58 remaining before halftime.
But the Panthers (14-13) would counter with a 9-0 run a short time later, highlighted by four quick points by Gabrielle Gutierrez off the bench, trimming the Estrella Foothills lead to just 17-16 with 1:25 left in the second quarter.
“We weren’t aggressive early and we got on the girls for that,” said Peoria coach Robbie Harper.
“We are usually a good 3-point shooting team and we didn’t shoot very well in the first half. That’s what probably hurt us the most,” Harper added.
Missed shots throughout the game was certainly a stumbling block for the Panthers but not as much as Wolves’ Tiana Reeder.
After Peoria’s Serrena Gonzales drained three free throws, closing the Panthers’ deficit to just 26-22 midway through the third quarter, the sophomore was virtually unstoppable the rest of the game.
Back-to-back layups by Reeder allowed the Wolves to extend their lead back up to 30-22 at the 4:09 mark of the third quarter, a lead that would not shrink below six points the remainder of the way.
In the second half alone, the 5 foot 9 Reeder managed 14 of her game-high 16 points (and 7 rebounds) quarterbacking the hosts from the point guard position, creating a huge matchup problem for the Panthers.
“We knew (Reeder) was going to be tough to guard. We don’t have anyone to guard her so we just had to do our best,” Harper said.
Stockton added 15 points for the Wolves while Gutierrez (13 points), Tiffane Tran (13 points) and Lindsey Jones (13 rebounds) pace the Panthers.