Saguaro strikes again late to reach Div. II girls title game - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

Saguaro strikes again late to reach Div. II girls title game

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 8:33 pm | Updated: 8:45 pm, Thu Feb 21, 2013.

The Saguaro girls basketball team has become "giant killers".

The Sabercats ended a Bradshaw Mountain 30-game winning streak by knocking off the top-ranked team in the quarterfinals of the Arizona Division II state tournament.

Saguaro outscored Liberty 17-6 in the final quarter for a 41-35 victory in the semifinals Thursday at Arena.

Now, the Sabercats (25-9) are only one game from their first girls basketball state championship in school history. Saguaro will meet No. 6 Tucson Flowing Wells for the title Saturday morning at 10 a.m. at Arena.

Though most of Division II already knew about Saguaro's abilities before the tournament began, Saguaro is showing everyone else it's been better then a No. 8-seed, especially after beating Seton Catholic for the Section III championship.

"It would be great to get the first (championship), Flowing Wells started the year to ranked and is a good team," Saguaro coach Chris Young said. "We are playing our best basketball at the best time at the end of the year."

The Sabercats a young team which starts three sophomores and two juniors. While that team may be back playing for another title, it's even sweeter for the team's only senior, Erika Kleinsteuber, to play for the championship.

Kleinsteuber played stingy defense and added eight points hitting two big three pointers and sealed the win hitting a pair of free throws with 6.3 seconds left.

"We have many players who are not afraid to take and make the clutch shot like tonight," Young said. "Erika always plays great defense, but tonight showed she can knock down the big shot, we see it all the the time, but it was nice to see in a big game."

Saguaro had a balanced scoring attack led by Jelani Huma with 12 points. Naomi Reyes added nine and Casey Rarrick and Kleinsteuber added eight points apiece.

"This is very, very thrilling, as you can tell I am so happy," an elated Kleinsteuber said. "I feel very confident about the championship game. I don't look for offense, defense comes first."

Courtney Christmas had a game-high 19 points and led Liberty to a 29-24 lead heading into the final quarter. The Sabercats then went on a 7-0 run for a 31-29 lead as Huma dished to Reyes for a layup.

The turning point came when Rarrick gave the Sabercats a spark with a 3-pointer to knot the game at 35-35 with 3:20 left. Rarrick then started the fastbreak with an outlet pass that led to Reyes scoring inside to take the lead for good at 37-35.

Rarrick then came up with a turnover and Reyes scored down low for a 39-35 lead with 31 seconds left.

"It was nice to knock down a big shot and then I saw Naomi (Reyes) and anticipated she would be open inside on the break," Rarrick said. "Our defense transferred into offense and our shots started falling to put the game away."

Saguaro 41, Liberty 35

Saguaro  9  8  7  17 - 41
Liberty    6 15 8   6  - 35
Saguaro:  Rarrick 8, Reyes 9, Huma 12, Mullen 4, Kleinsteuber 8.
Liberty: Chrsitmas 19, Crites 2, Marino 4, Steiner 4, Rivera 4, Vellutato 2.

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]