A lot of people are expecting huge things out of Marana’s 6-4 junior basketball star, Jamee Swan.
Last Tuesday, Swan delivered 12 of her game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter to help the Tigers (4-0) defeat visiting Palo Verde, 52-45.
The game attracted a lot of attention, largely because of the head-to-head matchup featuring Swan and Palo Verde’s 6-1 junior Darian Saunders.
As a sophomore, Swan averaged more than 21 points and 15 boards a game. Saunders averaged 16 points and 12 rebounds, so this contest figured to be a good barometer for Swan.
“It’ll get us ready if we make it to state,” Swan said. “It’ll be more challenging.”
Saunders came out on fire with six points, leading the Titans to a 12-11 lead. Then Marana’s defense clamped down, holding Saunders, who eventually fouled out, to four points the rest of the way.
“We might’ve been scared, then we said ‘let’s go,’” Swan said.
“We tried to front Saunders more,” said Tigers coach Diane Swan. “We played tougher defense.”
The Tigers led 28-23 at the half.
Caitlin Foust’s third-quarter basket gave the Tigers a 30-23 lead. Then, suddenly, they couldn’t find the basket. The Tigers missed 11 of their 14 shots in the quarter to keep the Titans in it.
“I told them to keep shooting,” said coach Swan. “If they shoot that outside shot, there’s a good chance for an offensive rebound.”
After being fouled behind the arc, Palo Verde’s Angel Holleran made three straight free throws for a 34-34 tie after three. Holleran finished with 14.
Palo Verde continued to play physical ball, but the Tigers were not intimidated.
Marana’s Kelsi Crotts, a senior, made five of her 10 shots from the floor for 12 points.
Swan is hoping to get the Tigers further into the playoffs this year. Last year, Swan had a huge playoff game in a 43-41 loss to heavily-favored Sahuaro, scoring 21 points, pulling in 20 rebounds and carrying the Tigers on her back down the stretch. Swan was the main reason the Tigers earned a playoff spot with a 14-9 record.
Swan’s goals are team-based.
“I want to get better for the team to get further in state,” Swan said. “I think we can. I look for my teammates more. I look at everyone.”
There’s even a buzzword passed around the Marana program this year.
“Our word is ‘unity’ this year,” said Jamee, and that’s echoed by her coach, who’s also her mom.
“We don’t run anything just for Jamee,” coach Swan said. “Jamee’s good at looking for her teammates. She sees the cutters.”
These Tigers are filling voids left by the graduation of second leading scorer Lindsay Honea and vocal leader Jessie Wengert.
“I wasn’t able to be a leader last year,” Swan said. “I need to step in.”
Marana had 23 turnovers against Palo Verde, but Coach Swan wasn’t overly concerned.
“A lot of it is trying to figure out how to pass Jamee the ball. Our point guard got hurt (Amber Mendoza).”
Swan expects the Tigers to sort it out. Crotts may be the #2 scoring threat, while tough defense is expected to come from Mally McGarity, Veronica Meade and Alyssa Ruiz. Swan and Crotts are good rebounders.
“Jamee can play inside and out,” said coach Swan. “It’s one for all and all for one.”