Corona’s girls and boys basketball teams ended 2011 with a bang, both going undefeated in holiday tournaments.
The Lady Aztecs were crowned champions of the Lady Badger Winter Classic held Dec. 29-30 in Prescott, going 5-0 and defeating tournament host Prescott 57-42 in the championship game at Prescott High School’s main gym.
Junior guard Alexa Hogberg shot a game-high 27 points in the championship game while sophomore forward Kaelin Shaffer put in nine and Taylor Kalmer added seven more for the win. At times it seemed like the Lady Aztecs, who had seven three-pointers, couldn’t miss. Hogberg made five of theCorona’s seven treys.
“It was a great feeling of accomplishment that we were able to achieve our team goal of winning the tournament,” said Hogberg. “Winning this tournament will definitely boost our confidence going into the next part of the season, especially playing some of the tougher teams on our schedule.”
“I am very pleased with how we played offensively and defensively,” said coach Andrew Strom.
“Alexa and Taylor shot the ball very well, and both made the all-tournament team.”
“Kaelin is continuing to give us a little bit of everything,” said Strom. “She can score for us, rebound for us and get steals from the third guard spot.”
Coronagained confidence as they easily knocked off the competition one team at a time. The Lady Aztecs defeated North Canyon 51-21, Mingus 51-21 and Sabino 37-21 before defeating Bradshaw Mountain 65-55 in the semifinals to make it into the championship against the Badgers.
The Lady Aztecs were not only able to score on their opponents but played solid defense to limit shots, grab rebounds and create fast break opportunities by stealing the ball.
“Lauren Lucky, Liann Kline and Jordynn Logston did all the things that make us a good team,” said Strom. “Their interior defense and rebounding has been very good plus all three are stepping up their offensive games as well.”
Lauren Lucky led the team in rebounds, corralling 9 of the team’s 25 total.
“Our senior Liann Kline is playing awesome,” said Hogberg. “She’s been working really hard and stepping up every game providing all the little things needed for us to be successful.”
The Lady Aztecs got quality minutes from their bench throughout their tournament run.
“Sammi Moore, who had an outstanding tournament, is feeling more comfortable in her role as the first guard off the bench,” said Strom. “Justice Mosley gave us a big boost when she entered the game with her effort and intensity.”
“Erin Miller did a nice job getting rebounds and playing interior defense,” said Strom. “Vicky Sanford and Haley Langille are continuing to improve and gave us very solid minutes in the tournament.”
Corona’s win against Bradshaw Mountain showed how much the Lady Aztecs have improved this year with their ability to break free from the Bear’s trapping defense.
“The game against Bradshaw Mountain was the most challenging for our team,” said senior Kline. “They had an aggressive trapping press which forced us to bring all five players back to break it.”
The Lady Aztecs ended the winter break with an 11-3 record, one of their best starts in recent history, and were hoping their 5-0 tournament run would give them an added boost of confidence heading into the new year.
“We have a very difficult part of our schedule in the next two weeks,” said Strom. “It will be fun to see how we respond.”
Corona was scheduled to play at Chandler Jan. 4, Mountain Pointe at home Jan. 6 and then play two more home games, Desert Vista, Jan. 10 and Hamilton, Jan. 13, before playing at Marcos de Niza Jan. 17.
Corona’s first foray into the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge, hosted by Mesa Mountain View Dec. 27-30, was an astounding success. The Aztecs were the only local team out of 11 that competed, part of a tournament that attracted talented teams from all over the country including some of the best in Arizona, to go undefeated.
The only other team out of the 17 participants to go undefeated was Gahr High School located in Cerritos,Calif. Both went 4-0.
The tournament did not include brackets or a championship game but instead gave teams a chance to play competitively during the holiday break
The Aztecs defeated all four of their opponents by double digits and handed two of them their first losses of the season. After beating Tucson Amphitheater by 16 points on Dec. 27, Corona beat both Anchorage(Alaska) and South Sioux City (Neb.) by 10 points each Dec. 28 and 29. It was South Sioux City’s first lost of the season.
The Aztecs then played shorthanded against Utah’s American Fork but still outscored by 21 points. The Cavemen’s only loss so far this season was against Corona.
Corona’s starting backcourt, Calaen Robinson and Casey Benson, played outstanding all four games and were named to the All-Tournament team. Robinson was given the co-most valuable player award along withSouth Sioux City’s guard Mike Gesell, who averaged 35-plus points a game.
Corona used the inside presence of Andrus Peat and Avery Moss, who only recently was cleared to play basketball after recovering from a shoulder injury, to grab rebounds and score points in the paint during the first three games.
For instance, on Dec. 29 against South Sioux City, Peat and Moss combined for 37 of Corona’s 82 points and had at least 12 offensive rebounds, most of which led to easy points when the 6-8, 280-pound Peat or 6-5, 235-pound Moss decided to go up with a put-back shot. Robinson led the team with 24 points.
Although Corona had a 37-28 halftime lead, South Sioux City’s guards made it interesting in the second half by cutting the lead to just two points (64-62) with 4:48 to play in the fourth quarter before the Aztecs were able to pull away from the two-time defending champions.
“The best moment of the tournament for me was when we beat South Sioux Cityin a game that was shown on TV,” said Moss. “They were the most challenging team we played because their skilled guard play really tested us as a team.”
Neither Moss nor Peat was able to play in the game against American Fork, but the Aztecs didn’t miss a beat, using a total team effort to beat the Utah team 77-56 in the fourth day of the 5th annual VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge.
The Aztecs used the absence of their two big post players to display their deep bench and 3-point shot array. Altogether, the team made at least 12 three-pointers.
Robinson made six of his eight three-point attempts while Benson, Jesse McCain, Bryan Siefker and Braden Tennyson each made at least one trey against American Fork.
McCain jump-started the team by scoring 10 of the team’s first 18 points, while Elijah Hempstead, starting in place of Moss, provided another inside presence, pulling down a team-high seven rebounds while scoring six points.
Siefker limited points with his usual suffocating defense, while Tennyson contributed to the team win with seven points on offense and a strong defensive effort as did Adam Gleave, who also scored four points.
Point guard Benson directed traffic while scoring 11 points along with six assists.
“This tournament was a great experience for us because we played together as a team really well all week,” said Benson. “It did not matter whether it was rebounding, playing good defense, scoring points or making plays for others—everyone contributed in one way or another. It was a total team effort.”
Moss was expected to announce his football college scholarship decision when he played for the West at the first Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl Jan. 3 at Chase Field. His top two choices were Purdue and Nebraskaas of Jan. 2.
The Aztecs will also be without Peat the first week in January because he will be playing at the Under Armour All-American Football Game in Florida, where he is also expected to announce his college choice to play football.
Corona was scheduled to play Chandler at home Jan. 4 but then had three away games in a row before another home showing Jan. 17 against Marcos de Niza. On Jan. 6, the Aztecs played at Mountain Pointe and are scheduled for a rematch at Desert Vista on Jan. 10 and a game with Hamilton Jan. 16.