Just four games into their 2017-18 season, the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team has already been on a rollercoaster. The Rams are 2-2 for November as they reconfigure for another run at the playoffs.
The two losses came in the season-starting Desert Edge Scorpion Shootout. Sierra Linda, last year’s state runner-up, defeated Maricopa 61-41. Then Agua Fria defeated the Rams in a much tighter game tainted by two late turnovers, 50-46.
“We started the season pretty rough,” Maricopa head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “I think we’re a lot better team than we showed in that first game.”
But it did give the Rams a taste of top-level basketball right out the chute and was an eye-opener in the work that needs to be done. Because they were tournament games, the losses do not count in Arizona Interscholastic Association figuring.
Against Sierra Linda, senior Sydni Callis, whom the coach called a big-game player, scored 20 points, had seven rebounds and six steals, and blocked two shots. Junior Jayla Johnson scored 15 and had six rebounds.
Maricopa started its regular season Tuesday by unloading on Vista Grande at home, 67-17. It was an opportunity for everyone to get in some floor time and figure out what “Ram basketball” means to Mitchell.
“It’s an extremely huge learning curve, just the players getting used to me and my personality, especially in practice; it may not be something that they’re used to,” said Mitchell, who is in his third year as varsity coach. “We like to switch up our defensive schemes, and stuff like that, so they always have to be thinking on the go. And just grooming them, making sure they’re ready for big-time competition like Queen Creek.”
They were definitely ready for Queen Creek on Thursday in Maricopa. The 61-29 victory was more than a little revenge on the Bulldogs, who beat Maricopa last year by two points. This time, Queen Creek was limited to single digits in every quarter.
“It was huge for us,” Mitchell said. “We just got to play our brand of basketball.”
Described by the coach as “a quiet assassin,” Johnson scored 21 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and collected six rebounds. Callis hit every shot she tried from the field and the line and finished with 18 points and nine steals.
“I think in my heart that we have two of the best guards in the state,” Mitchell said.
Freshman Shakira Galespie stepped up to score eight points. Sophomore Taylor Coleman led the rebounding with seven.
“It’s kind of one of those funny things where typically the seniors are the leaders, but we have everyone leading on this team,” the coach said.
The Rams are on the road Friday, playing Campo Verde in Gilbert at 7 p.m.