The Pusch Ridge girls rolled into the finals of the Northwest Desert Classic Girls basketball tournament last week, winning their first four games in pool play.
Then, in the final, the Lions ran into a 5A buzz saw known as Desert Ridge, losing 55-23.
The pool play tournament began at Pusch Ridge, and the Lions were initially energized by their home crowd. They beat Sabino 34-28, after taking a 15-6 early lead.
Cheyenne Link, the team's lone senior, led all players with 11 points. She was 3-5 from the floor and 5-6 from the free throw line, and went on to make the all-tournament team.
"We're normally a second-half team," Link said. "We played as a team. I was impressed with how we played."
Noelle Soltero came off the bench to score nine points, as she was perfect from the field, and 3-4 on the foul line.
Pusch Ridge's one hiccup was 21 turnovers, unofficially.
"That's good for us," said coach Lonnie Tvrdy. "We've been averaging about 30 turnovers a game. We're young and we make a lot of young mistakes."
Defense carried Pusch Ridge much of the way; the Lions yielded a mere 28 points a game in their four wins. The Lions completed their run to the finals with wins over Mingus 34-25, Canyon Del Oro 33-20, and Mountain View 44-38 in overtime in the semi-finals. Link had 19 points and 12 rebounds, including seven in the overtime.
"Honestly, our (defensive effort) came from out of nowhere," Tvrdy said. "We switched well in everything. We fronted the post. I'm pleased with Cheyenne Link coming out physical. Noelle Sotero was a sparkplug."
As the Lions renew their regular season efforts this week, Tvrdy has been encouraged by his team's play.
"My biggest concern is to play tougher physically and mentally, so we won't be intimidated," Tvrdy said. A need for continued improvement rests with some of his younger players, he added.
"Abby Maas is the sophomore point," Tvrdy said. "Caroline Roessler and Gaby Courtney are big and have to make good decisions." Maas joined Link on the all-tournament team.
"The future looks bright," Tvrdy said. "I feel like I'm 10-11 deep."
In other action, Ironwood Ridge won three games before losing in the semis to Desert Ridge, 44-37.
Mya Perron-Donovan scored 11 to lead the Nighthawks, while Sarah O'Keefe had eight. Each made the all-tournament team.
In their first game, the Nighthawks beat Amphi 46-26. Brooke Seavitt led the way with 10 points, while Perron-Donovan scored nine. In a 54-25 win over Catalina Foothills, O'Keefe scored 10 points. Then, in a 59-17 win over Edwin Paar (from Canada), Briana Hughes had 12, O'Keefe nine and Perron-Donovan eight.
Mountain View was unable to get to the finals on its home floor, losing in overtime to Pusch Ridge 44-38 in the semis. The Mountain Lions opened pool play with a 40-31 win over Desert Christian. Karina Walker, who had a huge tournament en route to all-tourney honors, led the way 14 points. Kelsie Bingham, who joined Walker on the all-tourney team, added 10.
Then the Mountain Lions defeated the Empire Ravens 59-29. Walker had 20 and Bingham eight. In a 54-31 loss to eventual champion Desert Ridge. Walker scored 11.