Fall-season wins lift Aztecs’ winter hopes
By Cody Roth and Katie Cartwright
After taking five Region titles during the fall, Corona winter athletics is looking more and more like a winner.
Players on the varsity boys basketball team had high aspirations for the year, having won the school summer league, but were left confused after beginning the season with a disconcerting 4-12 record.
Determined to show it could compete, the team rebounded by thrashing rival Mountain Pointe by 24 points.
With a starting lineup of four juniors and one senior, the team took an early lead and held it throughout the game. The victory at Mountain Pointe was the team’s first during Region play, after falling short in its opener at Yuma.
The game sparked the Aztecs’ confidence as they defeated their next Region opponent, Marcos de Niza, just six days later with a score of 86-71.
With a breakdown of five seniors, eight juniors and one sophomore, Corona relied on its youth rather than experience. Teammates looked to junior captain Clayton Bates for leadership.
“The inexperience hurt us early in the season, even though we have an extremely talented roster, but as the season has progressed we are starting to play together and have come up with some huge region wins that could help propel us into the state playoffs,” Bates said.
Corona also got help from its 6-foot-6 junior center Sean Imadiyi. Imadiyi is on pace to surpass the school’s overall shooting percentage record, which is currently 62.8 percent, held by former Corona standout Donnell Knight.
By going 8-8 from the field in each of the first two games of the Thanksgiving Tournament, Imadiyi got a jump-start on the rest of the season. With three games still left to play in the regular season, Imadiyi has already shattered the record for most blocks in a year, rejecting 43 shots in 22 games.
Varsity wrestling started the season off right, placing third in both the Westwood Warrior Classic and Phoenix Duals.
By the time Aztec Duals, a tournament annually hosted by Corona del Sol, came around, the Aztecs had made a reputation for themselves, with five wrestlers seeded first in Region. The team proved the rumors of their dominance to be true, winning the tournament for the second straight year.
Among the top-seeded athletes is senior Johnny Nguyen, who placed first at the Moon Valley Tournament. The defending region champion contributes much of his conditioning to participating in Tae Kwon Do during the off-season.
Other wrestlers to be given first seed honors are juniors Cory Hale, Timmy Kirch, Robert Holbrook and senior Kyle Varner. Hale has brought a new energy to the second half of the season. After missing the first half of the year with a broken hand, the Aztec Duals champion has returned to the mat with a perfect 18-0 record.
The Aztec wrestlers began the region tournament on Wednesday, and hope to advance to the state tournament.
“I’d like to see all 14 of our wrestlers place in the top three at region, and continue on to state,” Nguyen said.
One team that has already begun its postseason play is girls soccer, which swept the region with a flawless 8-0 record. Entering the state tournament ranked first in the state, Corona defeated the Mesa Jackrabbits, 4-0, on Monday night.
Following the regular season, girls were given the individual honors of being placed on an All-Region team.
Among these players was senior captain Kaitlin Baum, who was named All-Region Player of the Year.
In all, Corona had 12 girls recognized as All-Region players. Kaitlin Baum, Alexa Daiutolo and Stephanie Phillips made first team; Alexis Burkhart, Ashley Cain, Angie Fuhrmann, Courtney Mayers and Este Rea made second team, and Holly Benson, Brittany Cole, Bailey Cozzens and Anna Normandin received an honorable mention.
Like the basketball team, the soccer team was also very reliant on its underclassmen. Corona looks to a bright future with seven freshmen on the varsity roster, and a JV team that has outscored its opponents 69-2 in 13 games.“I think we are so successful because we all get along so well,” senior captain Fuhrmann said. “When you look at our team, you don’t see seven freshman, you just see 22 girls that come together to work toward a common goal of winning.”