It seems like the time between each 100 victories for Gilbert Highland girls basketball coach Miner Webster is getting shorter and shorter. That happens when you have a two-year run of state titles where your team goes 68-4 to contribute to that next 100.
Highland shook off a slow start Wednesday night and turned up the heat in the pivotal second quarter to notch victory No. 600 for Webster as the Hawks knocked off gritty Tucson High, 50-31, in the 15th annual Highland Thanksgiving Tournament at Highland High.
"The last two years were pretty good ones, so that bumps you up in a hurry," Webster said modestly of his gaudy victory total.
Webster, now in his 22nd year coaching (five years at Gilbert High and 16 at Highland), has a career record of 600-87, a remarkable winning percentage of .873. Webster's teams at Gilbert and Highland have won eight state titles in that span. Webster won the 500th game of his career on Jan. 12, 2006.
But Webster was more anxious to talk about his new team's third win of the young season against no losses rather than the 600th win, which makes him only the second coach in state girls basketball history to record 600 wins or more (Winslow's Don Petranovich is the other).
Highland struggled in the opening period, committing seven turnovers, and didn't seem to match the drive and intensity that Tucson had. That turned out to be a break for the Hawks, who return two starters and a couple bench players with decent experience from last season.
"We were fortunate to lead after the first quarter," Webster said. "If they had made more free throws or taken advantage of some good opportunities they had inside I'm sure we would have been behind."
Despite seven turnovers and 5-of-15 shooting, Highland led 11-6 after the first quarter. Tucson was 0-for-6 from the free-throw line in the first period and was 1 of 10 early in the second quarter. The Hawks improved their shooting in the second period and got an offensive boost in the stanza from guard Shannon Jacobs, forward Haley Vennard and reserve guard Jordan Hagen. They combined for 15 of Highland's 18 points in the period that saw Highland extend its lead to 29-12 at halftime.
"We were in a lot of foul trouble and Jordan Hagen did a really nice job for us having to take over for for Jenay (Locke) and Shannon," Webster said. "They were more aggressive than we were early. We came out a little timid. But we got better and more comfortable in the second quarter."
Balanced scoring is usually the rule for Highland, and that hasn't changed this season or Wednesday night. Six Hawks scored with Hagen and Jacobs netting 10 points each. Kaile Magazzeni and Vennard had nine points each, Locke eight and Sharon Graham six.
"I like the young kids we have," Webster said. "They're working their way in there. They just need some experience. Tonight was a good night for them and our team."