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Maricopa High School

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Freshman Nico Bandin and senior Tyler Rapp cover a play at second during the second round of the state tournament. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa High School’s baseball team gave up only one earned run in second-round play of the state tournament, but five errors let in six more.

The Rams lost to seventh-seed Sahuarita 7-1 Saturday afternoon in Surprise. Maricopa was ranked 10th in the Division III tourney.

The loss ended a fine season for MHS, which posted a 16-13 record. Outside of tournaments, the team was 13-5.

“We have a lot of things to look back on and be proud of,” head coach Andrew Pollak said.

The last time the team reached the state tournament was 2007. The last time the team reached the second round was 2004.

The team had a goal of getting the MHS program back to state despite a lackluster 2015 season. Pollak said many of the seniors came up through the program and had “100-percent buy-in” on that objective.

They also had the added inspiration of playing for their late teammate Nate Ford. Though the team was “bummed out” at Saturday’s loss, Pollak said they were proud to finish among the top 16 Division III teams in the state.

Against Sahuarita, the Rams tied the game 1-1 in the top of the second inning when senior Chad Nachtweh’s sacrifice fly knocked in sophomore Carter Paine.

“We definitely had our chances, but we weren’t able to capitalize on them,” the coach said.

After Paine pitched out of a bases-loaded jam, Sahuarita had only a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning. For Maricopa, the game turned into a mess in every way.

Untidy field play helped Sahuarita score three more runs before lightning on the horizon brought all playoff games in the complex to a halt.

Official rules require a 30-minute delay for a lightning sighting. With every subsequent lightning bolt, the 30-minute clock starts over. The continued lightning and subsequent rain had most baseball players sitting in their buses for nearly an hour.

The resumption of play did not help the Rams. Sahuarita scored another run before Paine got out of the fifth inning. Maricopa junior Jackson Stensgard finished the game on the mound, allowing an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth.

Stensgard had three hits in the game, including a double. Paine hit a triple and a single, and senior Ivan Herrera had a single. Paine struck out three, Stensgard one.

MHS baseball is losing five senior starters but has a deep selection of underclassmen moving up, including freshman Nico Bandin. Several players can shift from the outfield or the infield to the mound.

“We just knew that our players could also pitch, and we were excited about that flexibility,” Pollak said.

He hopes this season will be a precursor of good things to come for the Rams.

“It was a blast,” Pollak said.

Taking part in a recognition ceremony at Maricopa City Hall were (from left) MUSD Superintendent Steve Chestnut, MHS senior Donald Grace, Mayor Christian Price, AHS senior Derrick Gray, Krystal Hagler, Zelmer Hagler (aka Sincere D.I.B.), Nicholas Sheppard and Jaysie Sheppard.

A Maricopa ministry has begun a year-long kickoff of an effort to reward leadership among African-American students.

During Black History Month in February, the Flock Ministries, founded by Nicholas and Jaysie Sheppard, identified four nominees for its first scholarships. They contacted schools in Maricopa and in the Valley to find students meeting this year’s criteria of being African-American male seniors with good grades and a reputation for good character.

Of those who met the standard this year, three were from Maricopa and one was from Glendale.

“It sounds like a great idea,” said nominee Donald Grace. “I’m glad they’re helping people out, like in my situation, people who could definitely use the help that they’re providing.”

Grace will be graduating in May from Maricopa High School along with fellow nominees Johnny Johnson Jr. and Devaughn Sutton. Derrick Gray was nominated from Apollo High School.

The nominees were given certificates of appreciation on Feb. 27 by Flock Ministries, Doing It Big Entertainment (Up Next) and the City of Maricopa at a brief ceremony at City Hall. Mayor Christian Price and Maricopa Unified School District Superintendent Steve Chestnut spoke at the gathering.

Donald Grace (left) of Maricopa High School and Derrick Gray of Apollo High School are among four senior nominated for Black History Month scholarships. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Donald Grace (left) of Maricopa High School and Derrick Gray of Apollo High School are among four senior nominated for Black History Month scholarships. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“We’re going to start it here in Maricopa and then we’re going to spread it,” said Zelmer Hagler, who performs rap as Sincere D.I.B. and owns Doing It Big Entertainment. “We have a whole list of things we want to do in the city.”

During this year, organizers will host fund-raisers to create the first scholarships to be presented at a Black History Ball being planned for February 2017.

Jaysie Sheppard said it was important for the students to have black leaders to look up to in the community, but it was also important for her children to see black students being recognized for their achievements.

She thanked the students for “awesome character that you show to the community, showing great behavior in the classroom and then academic success. And that is so important today, because your wisdom is our future, is our black history.”

Next year, organizers will seek female seniors to recognize.

Grace, who attended the City Hall ceremony with parents Donald and Merry Grace and his brothers, is trying to decide between Arizona State University and University of Arizona. “I’m kind of more interested in economics because I’ve been taking it in high school,” he said.

Gray is mulling football scholarships that are already available to him and is also investigating baseball scholarships.

“I kind of want to go into teaching because my father is a teacher,” Gray said, adding he found mentorship in his family and his coaches. His parents, Derrick and Felisha Gray, were with him at the presentation.

Hagler said organizers notified schools around the Phoenix area about the scholarship opportunity, but ran into a surprising roadblock. “We couldn’t even find three in [Phoenix] because their grades were so low.”

He said it was another reason he wanted to recognize those who put in the work.

“We just want to show we appreciate what they’re doing and their work hasn’t gone unnoticed,” he said. “We want to continue to encourage them to go farther and just let them know they have mentors and different people here to help them.”

Nicholas Sheppard said he started the foundation because of how important mentors were to him. He and Jaysie played professional basketball.

“So now it’s time for me to give back,” he said.


This story appeared in the April issue of InMaricopa.

This year's senior Rams are (from left) Kevin Borboa, Tyler Rapp, Chad Nachtweh, Ivan Herrera and Christian Garcia. The late Nate Ford would have been a senior player and is listed on the roster as captain. Photo by William Lange

When 16-year-old Nate Ford died in an August traffic accident, he left behind grieving parents, siblings, relatives, friends and teammates. At Maricopa High School, the loss was immediately felt on the football team, for which he was a lineman and which was just starting its season at the time.

But the baseball diamond was really Ford’s athletic home. The Rams baseball team had a longer time to absorb the loss before its spring season began. Time did not lessen the personal loss to his friends on the team, but it did offer the opportunity to honor the senior catcher baseball-style.

Nate was made the team captain and is included on the Rams’ roster of seniors.

Friday will be Senior Night at Matt Huffman Field. The Rams Baseball Booster Club is making it the Nate Ford Community Night.

“Baseball was Nate’s passion,” Booster President Melanie Rapp said. “”He loved to be on the baseball field.”

Maricopa musician Laura Walsh will sing the National Anthem at 5:50 p.m., and the Rams will host Tempe High School at 6 p.m.

There will be ongoing raffles. Prizes include a 55-inch Toshiba flat screen TV, two-night stay at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, Mommy and Me photo session, a $100 Dick’s Sporting Goods gift card, 50/50 and more.

Nate Ford would have been a senior catcher this year for Maricopa High School. He and the other five seniors will be honored Friday night. Submitted photo
Nate Ford would have been a senior catcher this year for Maricopa High School. He and the other five seniors will be honored Friday night. Submitted photo

The concession stand will be serving smoked ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, hamburgers and hotdogs.

After the game, MHS will honor all of its baseball seniors. They include Kevin Borboa, Christian Garcia, Ivan Herrera, Chad Nachtweh and Tyler Rapp.

The Rams are 12-11 going into this week. Outside of tournaments, they are 10-4 and are 11th in the Division III power rankings.

Among the seniors (alphabetically), Borboa has played 13 games and batted .512. He has 21 hits, 11 runs batted in, four doubles and a triple.

Garcia, in 22 games, is batting .377 and his fielding percentage of .987 leads the team. He is also the team leader in walks with 12 and triples with three, and he is co-leader in total hits with 23, doubles with five and RBI with 19.

Herrera is batting .299 and is co-leader in hits with 23 and co-leader in runs scored with 17. He has three triples.

Nachtweh has struggled at the plate this season with a .196 averages, but two of his 10 hits were doubles. He also drew nine walks and had five RBI. His fielding percentage at first base is an impressive .962.

Rapp is leading the Rams’ pitching with an earned run average of 2.80. His 5-1 record is also the team’s best, and he has two saves. In 30 innings pitched, he has walked seven and struck out 27. Offensively, he is batting .281, with 14 runs scored, four doubles a triple and 10 walks. He leads the team in stolen bases with six.

Maricopa Rams Baseball Schedule
Higley            W     10-7
Dobson            L    8-4
Williams Field        L    15-2
Poston Butte        W    15-11
Fairfax            W    3-2
Seton Catholic        W    9-7
Marcos de Niza        L    14-0
Youngker        W    14-8
Basha            L    11-6
Mesquite        L    14-0
Dobson            L    14-4
Perry            L    16-1
St. Mary’s        L    13-7
Walden Grove        W    3-1
North            W    6-3
Vista Grande        W    3-2
Estrella Foothills    W    5-3
Sahuarita        L    8-3
Mountain View        W    4-0
Poston Butte        W    10-3
Fountain Hills        L    5-2
Scottsdale Christian    W    8-3
Casa Grande        L    1-0
Sierra Linda        Away    3:45 p.m.
Tempe            Home    6 p.m.
McClintock        Home    4 p.m.
Combs            Away    3:45 p.m.

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Drake Dutra, Matthew Dinh and Tyler Getz will play for Maricopa High School in the state tennis tournament starting April 22. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Three Maricopa High School tennis players are heading off to compete in the state tournament next week.

Junior Matthew Dinh and seniors Drake Dutra and Tyler Getz will play in the Division III bracket on April 22 at the Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.

Dinh was chosen as the Rams’ best singles player. He also played on the top doubles team for Maricopa, making it difficult to play both in the state bracket. Dutra and Getz will play instead as the MHS No. 2 doubles team.

Dutra is in his second year of tennis, but Dinh and Getz have played since they were freshmen. They are coached by Paula Pavlosky.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

In their home meet, the Maricopa Twilight, the Maricopa High School girls track team took third place among 17 competing schools, and the boys finished seventh.

Maricopa athletes won three events and scored 66 points on the girls’ side. The boys totaled 42 points.

Freshman Shannon Coutré won the 400-meter dash in 1:02.31, her top time. Freshman Italy Brookshire tied for highest pole vault at 4-10.

Despite easing up at the end on a windy afternoon, senior Jada Wright won her specialty event, the 800-meter run, in 2:28.87. That is three seconds slower than her best time this season and less than six seconds off her school record.

It was also Senior Night at Rams Stadium, a good time for Wright to reflect on her high school career. Wright has run for MHS since her sophomore year. She quickly realized she was expected to be a leader.

“That took a lot of work,” she said. “Basically I had to put my mind to it. From then I would medal and take top three in all my heats and even made state my first year.”

As she works toward returning to state at the end of this season, Wright is pulling for the girls coming up behind her. She said she feels like “the old dog now” in giving them advice.

“I do feel like I have new competition now,” she said. “They’re fresh and new at this, and they’re already doing very well, so I know I won’t hold all my records for that long, which I’m very fine with, because I want them to improve and move on. So if they break my records I’ll be happy to know that they did it.”

Coach Sheldon Hutchinson said the young team is getting a lot of experience this season and expects the final meets of the season to give them higher competition.

“Hopefully, they’ll have that experience to be able to go to state and do well,” he said. “Even if that doesn’t happen, they’ll be able to come back next year and the year after that and even the year after that.”

Also scoring points for the girls, sophomore Megan Carr ran her best time in the 3200-meter run and finished third in 12:14.34.

Leilena Young was fifth in the shot put with a throw of 29-9. Jakayla Shaw was sixth in the 100-meter dash in 13.99. Jennifer John was sixth in the 100-meter hurdles in 18.25.

The top eight places in individual events score team points. Daniela Gracia-Rios was eighth in the 300-meter hurdles in 53.27 and in the 100-meter hurdles in 19.15. Aisawan Chanpraphag was eighth in the pole vault in a tie at 5-11. Mysia Hudson was eighth in the shot put in 28-1 and in the discus at 82-8.

The girls finished second in the 4X800-meter relay in 10:35.24.

For the MHS boys, P.J. Austin was fourth in two events and sixth in another. Sam Coles scored points in two events.

Austin finished fourth in the 200-meter dash in 23.08 and in the long jump in 19-8. He took sixth in the 100-meter dash in 11.85.

Coles was sixth in the pole vault at 9-0 and ran eighth in the 800-meter run in 2:08.82.

Longman Pyne was sixth in the 400 in 52.75, and Devin Parady was sixth in the triple jump at 28-9.75.

Just a fraction ahead of Coles, Jesse Gaines was seventh in the 800 in 2:08.29. John Blodgett finished eighth in the 3200 in 10:47.73.

The boys placed second in the 4X400-meter relay in 3:32.48 and were third in the 4X100-meter relay in 44.72.

The Rams next compete Friday at Westwood High School in Mesa in the Hohokam Invitational. The Division II State Championships are set for May 4 and 7 at Mesa Community College.

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Jada Wright. Photo by William Lange

The track and field team at Maricopa High School is preparing to host its Twilight Meet on Friday starting at 2:30 p.m. at Rams Stadium.

The Rams are coming off a strong performance at the Red Rock Invitational on April 2 in Sedona in what has been an up-and-down season.

“Although boasting a very young team we managed to show up big in the Sedona meet in the Freshman Sophomore Division as well as our few varsity (11th and 12th grade) athletes,” coach Sheldon Hutchinson said.

The Rams picked up personal and school records along the way. The boys placed second.

Among the boys at Sedona, sophomore Phillip (P.J.) Austin won the 100-meter dash in the F/S Division in 11:57 and also won the 200-meter dash with an MHS sophomore record of 23.29.

Sophomore Longman Pyne won the F/S 400-meter dash in 53.14. Sophomore Jose Villagran won the  F/S 800-meter run in 2:06.34. He was just ahead of sophomore Sam Coles in second with 2:08.48.

Sophomore Kyle O’Hare was second in the F/S 100 in 11.75 and third in the F/S 200 in 23.82. Senior Michael Herbig finished third in the varsity 400 in 53.50.

Devin Parady was third in the F/S triple jump competition with a jump of 38-2.

Junior Kenneth Oliver was eighth in the varsity triple jump with 39-7. Junior John Blodgett was eighth in the varsity 3200-meter run in 10:55.60, and freshman Alec Kramarczyk was eighth in the F/S 3200 in 11:06.14.

Among the girls, Jada Wright set an MHS senior record in the varsity 800 with a run of 2:25.11.

Junior Daniela Gracia-Rios set a school record in the 300-meter hurdles by bounding to a time of 53.62 and an eighth-place finish.

Megan Carr’s first-place performance of 12:32.40 in the F/S 3200-meter run set an MHS sophomore record. That was a full 20 seconds faster than her winning time in the previous meet.

Italy Brookshire was third in the high jump at 4-8, just below her freshman record.

“The team had other notable performance and PRs, but we are looking to break more school records this Friday at our Ram Twilight Meet,” Hutchinson said.

Maricopa team had its previous best finish of the season at the Becky Mathews Invitational in Phoenix on March 26.

The girls finished sixth, and the boys were eighth.

Carr won the 3200-meter run in 12:52.81, and Italy Brookshire tied for first in the high jump at 4-8.

Shannon Coutré ran third in the 400-meter dash in 1:03.56. Leilene Young was fourth in the shot put with a toss of 28-8.25.

On the boys’ side at the Becky Mathews Invite, Coles was second in the 800 in 2:08.93. He was also fourth in the 1600 (4:54.71) and tied for 11th in the pole vault (11-0).

Parady was third in the triple jump at 38-7. Kramarczyk was fourth in the 3200 in 11:12.40. Jesse Gaines was two slots behind him in sixth at 11:38.89.

Villagran was fifth in the 800. Gaines ran seventh in the 400. Pyne was eighth in the 100.

In the Nike Chandler Rotary Invitational March 19, Maricopa’s girls did not place as a team but had strong performances against challenging competition.

Mysia Hudson was eighth in discus, throwing 86-10. Wright ran 10th in the 800-meter run in 2:31.44. Coutré was 10th in the 400 in 1:02.85, and Hudson was 15th in the shot put in 29-3.

Among the boys, Pyne was sixth in the 400 in 52.6. Dakota Halverson was 10th in discuss at 110-2. Phillip Austin was 13th in the long jump at 18-11.

Maricopa’s boys finished 14th at the Rattler Booster Invitational to start the season March 5.  The girls were 21st in the team competition.

Red Rock Invitational, Sedona, April 2
Girls Varsity – Maricopa results
400-meter dash
28th, Megan Clayburn, 1:11.84
800-meter run
1st, Jada Wright, 2:25.11
17th, Amanda Macial, 2:48.08
34th, Tori Martin, 3:03.7
1600-meter run
23rd, Tori Martin, 6:51.43
100-meter hurdles
12th, Jennifer John, 18.79
17th, Daniela Gracia-Rios, 19.37
300-meter hurdles
8th, Daniela Gracia-Rios, 53.62
17th, Maria Gastelum-Parra, 1:04.92
4X400-meter relay
8th, 4:40.83
4X800-meter relay
6th, 10:56.17
Long Jump
15th, Aisawan Chanprahag, 13-9
Shot put
6th (tied), Leilena Young, 30-4.25
6th (tied), Mysia Hudson, 30-4.25
7th, Mysia Hudson, 85-0
12th Leilena Young 79-9

Girls Soph/Frosh – Maricopa Results
100-meter dash
2nd, Jakayla Shaw, 13.81
14th, Chalisse Bell, 14.52
200-meter dash
5th, Jakayla Shaw, 28.60
28th, Devyn Dutra, 31.84
400-meter dash
16th, Alondra Araujo, 1:15.14
1600-meter run
14th, Teresa Flores, 6:49.04
28th, Kimberly Vega-Sanchez, 7:49.14
31st, Alexandra Mask, 8:10.54
3200-meter run
1st, Megan Carr, 12:32.40
5th, Teresa Flores, 14:43.06
100-meter hurdles
17th, Maria Gastelum-Parra, 22.88
High jump
3rd, Italy Brookshire, 4-8
11th, Devyn Dutra, 4-0
Long jump
12th, Chalisse Bell, 13-2.5
17th, Maylee Von-Axelson, 12-8
Triple jump
9th, Maylee Von-Axelson, 28-1
Shot put
23rd, Rebekah Spencer, 15-10.75
22nd, Rebekah Spencer, 43-10

Boys Varsity – Maricopa Results
100-meter dash
26th, Michael Herbig, 12.35
200-meter dash
15th, David Owens, 24.55
400-meter dash
3rd, Michael Herbig, 53.50
13th, David Owens, 55.18
19th, Marc Mwangi, 56.26
800-meter run
17th, Jesse Gaines, 2:11.39
20th, Marc Mwangi, 2:12.66
1600-meter run
7th, Sam Coles, 4;50.48
15th, Jesse Gaines, 5;09.55
18th, Geo Hernandez, 5;11.91
3200-meter run
8th, John Blodgett, 10:55.6
11th, Jayden Jensen, 11:19.86
13th, Geo Hernandez, 11:24.07
110-meter hurdles
11th, Kenneth Oliver, 18.43
28th, Darren Peecher, 22.89
4X800-meter relay
5th, 9:06.92
Long jump
5th, Phillip Austin, 20-5
7th, Kenneth Oliver, 20-4.25
29th, Joseph Ferland, 12-2
Triple Jump
8th, Kenneth Oliver, 29-7
23rd, Joseph Ferland, 29-0
Pole vault
12th, Sam Coles, 8-7
Shot put
15th, Dillon Cunningham, 36-2.5
19th, Nickola Carbajal, 35-2
28th, Dakota Halverson, 33-6
9th, Nickola Carbajal, 109-0
13th, Dakota Halverson, 104-7
14th, Charles Worden, 104-4

Boys Soph/Frosh – Maricopa Results                                        
100-meter dash
1st, Phillip Austin, 11.57
2nd, Kyle O’Hare, 11.75
14th, Jathan Washington, 12.44
200-meter dash
1st, Phillip Austin, 23.29
3rd, Kyle O’Hare, 23.82
400-meter dash
1st, Longman Pyne, 53.14
30th, Vincent Lebron, 1:03.58
800-meter run
1st, Jose Villagran, 2:06.34
2nd, Sam Coles, 2:08.48
1600-meter run
36th, Luke Stroschein, 5:59.67
3200-meter run
8th, Alec Kramarczyk, 11:06.14
24th, Matthew Malan, 13:41.21
110-meter hurdles
7th, Logan Taylor, 19.08
8th, Jonathan Childers, 19.38
24th, Lorenzo Childers, 23.31
300-meter hurdles
15th, Jonathan Childers, 50.91
23rd, Lorenzo Hernandez, 56.90
25th, Darren Peecher, 58.72
High jump
10th, Logan Taylor, 5-0
Long jump
6th, Jameson Henigan, 16-11
7th, Costas Miller, 16-10.5
29th, Adrian Bazzel, 14-0.75
Triple jump
3rd, Devin Parady, 38-2
11th, Jameson Henigan, 34-0.5
Shot put
12th, Reece Thompson, 30-9
25th, David Skelton, 28-7.75

9th, David Skelton, 84-1
23rd, Reece Thompson, 75-4

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Sophomore Carter Paine pitched six innings to get the win over North High on Wednesday. File photo by Devin Carson

The Maricopa High School baseball team hopes to even up its record at Vista Grande tonight.

Thanks to a couple of tough tournaments, the Rams got through the first half of its season with at 7-8.

What’s important to head coach Andrew Pollak is the power point, which figures into whether the team makes the playoffs. In the first four of those games, the Rams went 3-1.

“We’re excited about that,” Pollak said.

He said his team has been swinging the bats well, and pitching has been diverse with an array of hurlers to choose from.

Defense, on the other hand, has been sketchy.

“We don’t know what to attribute it to,” Pollak said. “Four of seven innings, we’ll be really good, and then we’ll let in runs. We’re working on avoiding those big innings.”

Of the Rams who have played 10 or more games the first half of the season, senior Christian Garcia leads the batting with a .425 average. He has 17 hits, included three triples. Sophomore Carter Paine also has 17 hits and is batting .386. Junior Marcos Cano is batting .375 and leads the team in runs batted in with 16.

Christian Garcia. Photo by  William Lange
Christian Garcia. Photo by William Lange

Top pitchers have been Paine (3.00 ERA), senior Tyler Rapp (3.76) and junior Jackson Stensgard (5.25). The Rams have also had a couple of freshmen on the mound and the Belcher twins, Taylor and Tyler.

“We haven’t really played our best baseball yet,” the coach said. That gives them some confidence as they head into more difficult section play.

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Evan Grace is congratulated by Superintendent Steve Chestnut. Photo by Merry Grace

On Feb. 19, Maricopa High School freshman Evan Grace was presented with a 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Excellence Award for demonstrating “exceptional initiative in service to the community” and he was designated as one of the top student volunteers in Arizona.

Evan’s signature event for the past two years has been the “Sock Drive.” Both years, he has spearheaded in cooperation with the Blue Star Moms of Maricopa a donation drive to provide socks for our active military service troops. This past summer 500 pairs of socks were collected and donated. Evan was nominated for this award by Renita Myers, principal of Maricopa High School, with support and encouragement from Rick Abel, principal at Maricopa Wells Middle School.

In an unanticipated follow-up, Evan also received a signed personal letter from President Barack Obama along with a President’s Volunteer Service Award. This award offered by the Corporation for National and Community Service is presented “in recognition and appreciation for (Evan’s) commitment to strengthen our nation and communities through volunteer service”.

Along with the Sock Drive, Evan is a Youth Champion for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. He is also a 2-year member of the City of Maricopa Youth Council, a role that necessitated a lowering of the age requirement to allow his participation as an eighth grader.

Evan is also deeply engaged at Maricopa High School and also is involved in many community projects. His passion and commitment to the Maricopa community is inspiring and the Maricopa Unified School District is proud to call Evan one of our own. Evan was recognized at the MUSD Governing Board meeting on March 16 for these accomplishments.

Peter Trast, Carrie Vargas and Kati Trast are among the cast of this week's production of "Blithe Spirit" by Maricopa Community Theatre.

Maricopa Community Theatre presents Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit” tonight through Saturday in the Lecture Hall at Maricopa High School.

In the story, successful novelist Charles Condomine (played by Peter Trast) is seeking material for his next great book. He and his wife Ruth (Cindi Calhoun) hire a spiritual medium (Kati Trast) to conduct a séance. Unfortunately, she conjures up his late first wife Elvira (Carrie Vargas), whom only Charles can see.

The resulting mayhem is the bona fide Coward farce that always includes a touch of irony, even cruelty.

David Vargas is directing this production.

Performances are 7 p.m. each night, with a special 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday that will include a Q&A session with the actors afterward called “Talk Back.” Tickets are $10 in advance (if reserved at least four hours before showtime at maricopacommunitytheatre@gmail.com) and $15 at the door.



Besides performing, the students had clinics with top music leaders during their time at the Rose Center Theater. Submitted photo

March 3-6, the Maricopa High School Band, Orchestra and Winter Guard took their fifth bi-annual trip to Anaheim, California, to participate in a national festival sponsored by Worldstrides OnStage Programs.

Students performed at the Rose Center Theater in Westminster, California. The orchestra had a clinic with Neal Hendricksen from Woods Cross High School in Utah. The band and guard had clinics with Jeffrey Sisil from the Kingston Jazz Band. The students enjoyed visiting Universal CityWalk and Disneyland and topped off the weekend with an awards ceremony held in Disney’s Fantasyland Theater.

“This year marked some of our best performances in this program since we began these trips back in 2009,” director Ivan Pour said. “Our band and orchestra earned a Silver Award (the second-highest, equivalent to a rating of Excellent), and our Winter Guard earned a Gold Award (the highest available – equivalent of a rating of Superior). Our orchestra concert master, junior Joseph “Kyle” Ferland was recognized with a Maestro Award for outstanding musicianship. Our entire group was for the third time awarded the Spirit of Anaheim award for outstanding teamwork and outstanding representation of our school and community.

“These are truly wonderful students that Maricopa can be proud of,” he added, “and it is a joy and privilege to be able to work with these students learning about making music each day in class and a joy to see their hard work pay off on stage!”

Donald Grace (left) of Maricopa High School and Derrick Gray of Apollo High School (pictured with Maricopa Mayor Christian Price) are among four senior nominated for Black History Month scholarships to be funded by events like Spring Break Dance.

Friday from 6 to 11 p.m., local rapper Sincere D.I.B. (Zelmer Hagler) will host a Spring Break Dance at Maricopa High School.

The ticket price is $10 and will also include live performances by Sincere D.I.B and other local musicians that support the endeavors of the students in the local community.

A portion of the evening’s proceeds will go to scholarship funds for the graduating seniors honored during Black History Month for their outstanding achievements.

“We just want to show we appreciate what they’re doing and their work hasn’t gone unnoticed,” Hagler said. “We want to continue to encourage them to go farther and just let them know they have mentors and different people here to help them.”

Hagler’s Doing It Big Entertainment will host more events this year for the youth.

The Spring Break Dance will be in the MPR room at the high school.

Bernadette Russoniello has been teaching for 15 years. Submitted photo

Known as Mrs. Russ by her students, Bernadette Russoniello is in her 15th school year teaching at Maricopa High School. She teaches marketing and journalism and has developed an award-winning DECA program at MHS.

This year, she was the recipient of the Educator of the Year award at the Maricopa Chamber of Commerce Community Awards Banquet.

What is your favorite part of being an educator? Every day is different, every day is a fresh start, every day offers a challenge – the learning never stops. I love helping students get excited about an opportunity that can change their life.

What has been the highlight of your career so far? Being part of a community and working to challenge students to be an active and dynamic force in their school and community.

Why did you choose education as a career? I love school! As a kid, I would play school all the time. I would line up my stuffed animals and teach them various lessons. I would assign them homework, do all their assignments and then grade them. I turned my bookshelf into a library, making pockets, check-out cards and a mini card catalog. In high school, I did everything – sports, choir, drama, athletic training, peer mentoring, captained the science team – I couldn’t get enough learning. To the ever-lasting dismay of my family, I turned away from my medical school plans and pursued teaching.

What would be your “other career” option? Cruise director, Tahitian resort manager or National Park ranger. Hospitality and travel are a passion. I also love community, leadership and programs – so any job that incorporates those elements is a natural fit for me.

Why Maricopa? Maricopa offered me a job teaching English before I even earned my full credential. I think it was a risk that has paid off. I started at MHS when Rancho El Dorado was still pecan groves and the entire district (K-12, district office and transportation) filled the area of the current high school campus. Maricopa High School reminded me a lot of New River Elementary School – both in the buildings at the time and the staff. It simply felt like home. The incredibly affordable housing also swayed the decision for our young family.

What are the biggest challenges facing Maricopa students today? Distractions: cell phones, social media “drama” and adult responsibilities. My senior students were just telling me today they wish they had more time to “just be a kid.” These distractions force students to narrow their focus and stop dreaming.

What was the best advice you received about your own education? Learning never stops. A textbook and a college degree have an expiration date – the pace of our world and the access to information has reshaped the role of teacher from sage on the stage to guide on the side.

What advice do you give parents of schoolchildren? Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. Let your kids have some choice about what and how they learn; make sure they have the time and support to be really great at something; expose them to opportunities to serve a purpose greater than themselves (community service and involvement).

What have your students taught you? Forgiveness is essential and judgment is dangerous. Take time to ask, “Why didn’t you do your work? Why the bad mood?” Too many assumptions take place in schools between colleagues, teachers, students, etc. Take time to hear their story.

Russoniello (left) has led the MHS DECA program to unprecedented success. Photo by Devin Carson
Russoniello (left) has led the MHS DECA program to unprecedented success. Photo by Devin Carson

Bernadette Russoniello
Title: Teacher
School: Maricopa High School
Hometown: New River, Arizona
Residence: Rancho El Dorado
Education: Bachelor of Arts in English, BA in history, Arizona State University – Barrett Honors College; post-bac Secondary Education, Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction, Arizona State University; finishing M.Ed in Educational Leadership Northern Arizona University
Family: Wonderfully supportive husband and fellow teacher Michael Russoniello, four articulate and outgoing children (Joey, Timmy, Grace and John) all attending Santa Rosa
Teaching positions held: English 9-12, U.S. History, AP Literature, AP Language, AP U.S. History, AP U.S. Government and Politics, Student Council, Marketing, Journalism plus adjunct instructor teaching Political Science, English and Education for CAC
Years in Education: 15
First job out of college: Ran a travelling day camp summer program for the Jewish Community Center the summer prior to teaching at Maricopa (2001)
Hobbies: Hiking, camping, biking, making the most of summer vacation with epic road trips (check out my Facebook!), piano and vocals (spent eight years serving as music minister at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church)
First year with current school: 2001
Favorite subject when you were in elementary school: Reading, writing, spelling and social studies

This story appeared in the March issue of InMaricopa News.

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Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

The 2016 Maricopa High School boys’ and girls’ tennis teams want to build off of experience and skill each team has developed over the last few seasons.

For the girls, returning players will play a key role in leading the Rams to a victory. Junior Bailey Abel is anticipated to lead the team, but head coach Heather Abel expects the rest of the team to step up, too.

“I am excited for this season,” coach Abel said. “I think we have a great group of girls. We have a few returning players, and some new girls on the team.”

The girls’ team will face an uphill battle against a tough schedule that includes Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II playoff teams Ironwood Ridge High School (Tucson), Nogales High School, Salpointe Catholic High School (Tucson) and state runner-up Catalina Foothills High School (Tucson).

On the boys’ side, the Rams want to take advantage of a weaker schedule. They don’t have a single playoff team from 2015 scheduled, and seniors Frank Olvey, Tyler Getz and Drake Dutra will look to develop their skill throughout the season.

“My current MHS team consists of half juniors and half seniors,” head coach Paula Pavlosky said. “Though our team may be small, our energy level is strong. We hope to bring some great matches and wins for this great sport.”

The boys started the season Feb. 24 with a 6-3 victory over Casa Grande High School. Their match with Coolidge was postponed, but the Rams defeated Gilbert Classical Academy 5-4 on March 1.

The girls lost at Casa Grande, 7-2, and followed with a Feb. 29 loss at home to Buckeye, 9-0.

Girls’ Schedule

Photo by Devin Carson
Photo by Devin Carson

Feb. 24        4 p.m.    (A) Casa Grande                             L 2-7
Feb. 29        3:30 p.m. (H) Buckeye Union                     L 0-9
March 3    3:30 p.m. (H) Ironwood Ridge
March 16    3:30 p.m. (A) Salpointe Catholic
March 22    3:30 p.m. (H) Catalina Foothills
March 23     3:30 p.m. (A) Skyline
March 30    3:30 p.m. (H) Nogales
April 1        3:30 p.m. (A) Marana
April 6        3:30 p.m. (A) Vista Grande
April 7        3:30 p.m. (H) Canyon Del Oro
April 11        3:30 p.m. (A) Poston Butte
April 14        3:30 p.m. (A) at Casa Grande Union
April 15        3:30 p.m. (H) Mountain View Marana

Boys’ Schedule
Feb. 24        3:30 p.m. (H) Casa Grande Union                 W 6-3
Feb. 26        3:30 p.m. (H) Coolidge                                   Postponed
March 1    3:30 p.m. (H) Gilbert Classical Academy        W 5-4
March 3    3:30 p.m. (A) Tempe
March 4    3:30 p.m. (H) Veritas Prep
March 22    3:30 p .m. (A) Antelope Union
March 29    3:30 p.m. (H) Marana
March 30    3:30 p.m. (A) Coronado
April 1        3:30 p.m. (H) Sierra Linda
April 4        3:30 p.m. (A) Mountain View Marana
April 6        3:30 p.m. (H) Seton Catholic
April 11        3:30 p.m. (H) Poston Butte
April 13        4 p.m. (A) AZ College Prep
April 15        4 p.m. (A) Buckeye Union

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

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Johnny Johnson Jr. (left) and Josh Johnson were named First Team All Section. Photo by William Lange

Maricopa High School senior Johnny Johnson Jr. and sophomore Josh Johnson both received First Team All Section Basketball honors for Division III Section V.

“Both of these student athletes had phenomenal seasons,” Coach Jake Neill said.

The Johnsons led most categories for the Rams basketball team this season. Josh was MHS’s leading scorer with 537 points, averaging 19.9 per game. He also led in assists with 110 and steals with 91. His 103 total rebounds were third on the team, an average of 3.8 per game. He shot 52 percent from the field.

Johnny was second in team scoring with 504 points in 26 games, a 19.4 average. He led in rebounds with 125, 4.8 per game. He was second in assists (65) and steals (76).

For the record, the player with the second most rebounds on the team was sophomore El Jones with 113. He also easily led in blocks with 18.

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Two Maricopa High School bands earned a spot in state competition. Submitted photo

The Maricopa High School Chamber Orchestra earned a Superior rating – the hightest rating – at the ABODA Area Concert Festival. The MHS Symphonic Band earned an Excellent, the second-highest rating.

They performed at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale on March 2. Both groups excelled in their performances. Both groups will advance to the State Concert Festival held April 26-28 at Chandler Center for the Arts.

“This marks the first time ever two groups from MHS will perform at the State festival,” Instrumental Director and Fine Arts Chair Ivan Pour said. “The orchestra’s Superior is the highest rating ever for any MHS group in the Area festival. We are really proud of these students!”

The orchestra performed “Tales of the Kojiki” by Keiko Yamada, “Shaker Hymn” arranged by John O’Reilly, and “Avenger” by Bob Grice. The Symphonic Band performed “The Invincible Eagle” by John Philip Sousa arranged by Jay Bocook, “Aria Cantabile” by Frank Erickson, and “Abracadabra” by Frank Ticheli.

Following their performance each group participated in a wonderful educational clinic. The orchestra worked on bringing more out of the musical line and the band explored march style and worked on musical timing.

Both groups earned praise for being well-prepared and striving to realize the composer’s intent in the music. The band earned praise for good tone, articulation, dynamics and balance and the orchestra earned praise for balance, blend, overall sound and use of dynamics.


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Submitted photo

Maricopa High School DECA delivered their best performance to date at the State Career Development Conference on March 1.

Competing against more than 2,600 student competitors and 90 Arizona high schools, MHS DECA brought 27 students competitors to the state conference and returned with 30 medals. MHS DECA dominated in team role plays in the areas of Marketing Communications, Travel and Tourism, Hospitality, Buying & Merchandising, and Sports & Entertainment Marketing as well in individual role plays of Business Service Management, Apparel & Accessories Marketing, Quick Serve Restaurant Management and Hotel & Lodging Management.

MHS earned 21 first-place rankings in these competitions. Eight students went on to finals, with four students qualifying for the International Career Development Conference April 22-27 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Juan Carrillo, MHS junior and MHS DECA chief marketing officer, was elected Arizona DECA State Officer for the 2016-2017 school year. He will represent all rural schools and district and serve on the Arizona DECA Executive board. Chosen from more than 80 applicants, Juan ran along with 15 other candidates for one of the coveted eight state officer positions.

Juan Carillo. MUSD file photo
Juan Carillo. MUSD file photo

DECA is an organization dedicated to emerging young leaders and entrepreneurs in the fields of finance, hospitality, management and marketing in high schools and colleges around the world. Additionally, MHS alumna Valeria Ortiz took third place in Collegiate DECA’s state conference representing Northern Arizona University.

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This year's senior Rams are (from left) Kevin Borboa, Tyler Rapp, Chad Nachtweh, Ivan Herrera and Christian Garcia. The late Nate Ford would have been a senior player and is listed on the roster as captain. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School baseball team hopes to honor Nate Ford with their play on the field and their actions off it.

Ford, an MHS football and baseball player, was killed in an August traffic accident. His death served as a rallying cry for the football team, which went 7-3, and the community as a whole.

The MHS baseball team will look to similarly honor Ford as they take the field this season. His mother Jennifer has called baseball his first love. The players hope to keep Ford’s memory alive by showcasing the incredible work ethic he brought to every practice, and to be successful both on and off the field.

“Nate had the most heart and was the hardest-working player I have ever been around,” head coach Andrew Pollak said. “Our players have one responsibility and that is to continue to let people see the qualities Nate displayed on the baseball field and in the community.”

The Rams will look to an experienced group of five seniors to provide leadership and support for a team that features four sophomores and three freshmen.

“Our seniors this season are Ivan Herrera, who was a Division II First Team All-Academic winner last season, Tyler Rapp, who is a four-year varsity starter, Chad Nachtweh, who has improved tremendously and plays a very good first base, Kevin Borboa who covers a lot of ground in centerfield and will see a lot of innings on the mound, and newcomer Christian Garcia, who is a catcher in his first season as a Maricopa Ram,” Pollak said.

The MHS baseball team is honoring former teammate Nate Ford, who would have been a senior this season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
The MHS baseball team is honoring former teammate Nate Ford, who would have been a senior this season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Maricopa plays in Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division III, down a division from last year.

The drop in divisions will not translate to an easier schedule for the Rams. Maricopa is scheduled to face seven playoff teams from 2015, including Division III state runner-up Walden Grove High School (Sahuarita) and Division III semi-finalists Fountain Hills High School and Scottsdale Christian Academy.

“The one common theme that we have talked about as a team is how we are playing for a bigger purpose this season,” Pollack said. “Our goal as a team is to make sure every day our actions are making Nate Ford proud.”

The Rams have started the season with a 3-2 record.

This story appeared in the March issue of InMaricopa News.

Feb. 24        Pinon-Huffman Invitational/Higley    W 10-7
Feb. 25        Pinon-Huffman Invitational/Dobson    L 4-8
Feb. 26        Pinon-Huffman Invitational/Williams Field    L 2-15
Feb. 27        Pinon-Huffman Invitational/Poston Butte    W 15-11
March 1    Fairfax                    W 3-2
March 3    vs. Seton Catholic (4 p.m.)
March 8    vs. Marco de Niza (4 p.m.)
March 9    @ Youngker (6 p.m.)
March 12-17    @ Bob Everett Invite (TBA)
March 22    @ Walden Grove (3:45 p.m.)
March 23    vs. North (4 p.m.)
March 24    vs. Vista Grande (6 p.m.)
March 29    vs. Estrella Foothills (4 p.m.)
March 31    vs. Sahuarita (4 p.m.)
April 1        @ Mountain View Marana (4 p.m.)
April 5         vs. Poston Butte (4 p.m.)
April 7        @ Fountain Hills (4 p.m.)
April 13        vs. Scottsdale Christian (4 p.m.)
April 15        vs. Casa Grande @ Salt River Field (6 p.m.)
April 20        @ Sierra Linda (3:45 p.m.)
April 22        vs. Tempe (6 p.m.)
April 25        @ McClintock (4 p.m.)
April 27        @ Combs (3:45 p.m.)

Carter Paine pitches during the Matt Huffman Invitational. Photo by Devin Carson
Carter Paine pitches during the Matt Huffman Invitational. Photo by Devin Carson

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Maricopa High School softball team 2016. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School softball team hopes to have a strong performance with a senior-heavy roster in the 2016 season.

“We’re really hoping to make the playoffs this year,” head coach Brandi Howell said. “We have 11 seniors this season, so their experience should help. We’re really looking to make a mark.”

The Rams look to be balanced on both offense and defense. With so many veterans, the Rams will have plenty of firepower in both hitting and pitching aspects of the game.

“Hitting-wise, I think we should be strong,” Howell said. “I also think Amber Cramer will have a great year pitching.”

Maricopa will be dropping to Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III for the 2016 season. The Rams will also only play three returning playoff teams from 2015. The girls expect their experience at the higher levels of competition to help carry them through a moderate schedule.

“We’re looking to perform consistently throughout the year,” Howell said. “We have moved down a division this year. We will be moving back up next year, so we want to make a name for ourselves this season.”

To open the season, the girls finished second in the Agua Fria Tournament. Their overall record is 3-4. Friday and Saturday, the Rams host the annual Kristen Diehl Tournament.

Feb. 22        Agua Fria Tourney/Agua Fria            W 8-2
Feb. 24        Agua Fria Tourney/Florence             L 1-7
Feb. 24        Agua Fria Tourney/Youngkers           L 2-5
Feb. 26        Agua Fria Tourney/Agua Fria            W 6-3
Feb. 27        Agua Fria Tourney/Buckeye             W 8-3
Feb. 27        Agua Fria Championship/AF             L 4-10
March 1       @ Seton Catholic                               L 1-7
March 4-5    (H) Kristen Diehl Tournament
March 16      v. Marcos de Niza                              4 p.m.
March 18      v. Youngker                                        3:45 p.m.
March 22      v. Coolidge                                         3:45 p.m.
March 23      v. Betty Fairfax                                  3:45 p.m.
March 24      v. Casa Grande                                   4 p.m.
March 29     @ Estrella Foothills                         6 p.m.
March 31     @ North                                              3:45 p.m.
April 5          @ Poston Butte                                 7 p.m.
April 8           v. Fountain Hills                                3:45 p.m.
April 13        @ Veritas Prep                                   3:45 p.m.
April 15        @ Saguaro                                         3:45 p.m.
April 19        v. Apache Junction                            3:45 p.m.
April 20        @ Vista Grande                                 4 p.m.
April 22        @Tempe                                            3:45 p.m.
April 26        v. Higley                                              3:45 p.m.
April 27        @ Sahuarita                                       4 p.m.

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Senior Raegene Womack tries to get through Seton Catholic in the state quarterfinal game. Photo by William Lange

There will be no state repeat as defending champion Maricopa High School girls’ basketball lost 57-40 against the tournament’s No. 1 seed Seton Catholic High School Tuesday night.

The Rams beat the Sentinels to claim last year’s state title, but Seton Catholic showed tremendous skill and resiliency in this year’s tournament.

The Rams finished with a 23-7 record overall and ranked eighth in Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division II Girls’ Basketball Power Rankings.

“It was great to coach this group of girls and to be affiliated with Maricopa basketball for the last two years,” head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “I believe we had a great overall season with the tough competition that we played. Obviously, we would’ve hoped to have a win tonight, but it just didn’t go our way.”

Maricopa struggled to make shots in the first half and fell into an early 22-point deficit by halftime.

The Rams rallied in the second half to pull within 12 before the fourth quarter, but the Sentinels simply had too many weapons and held on for the victory.

Junior Tyra Williams. Photo by William Lange
Junior Tyra Williams. Photo by William Lange

“Seton, they do a great job of adjusting,” Mitchell said. “In all honesty, I think they’re just one of the best halftime adjusting teams that I’ve seen or that I’ve coached against. So they made a great job of adjusting to what we were doing on offense and made a couple stops.”

Maricopa will lose seven players, including three starters, to graduation in May. The class of 2016 will leave Maricopa as one of the most successful groups of girls in the school’s basketball history.

“It was really emotional, and the girls wanted to win,” Mitchell said. “You just let them know they had a great season, which they did, and talk to each and every individual girl and let them know how much you love and appreciate them.”

Seton Catholic will take on Mesa High School in the AIA State Semi-finals Saturday Night at Gila River Arena in Glendale.

See more photos at InMaricopa.com/Photos.

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Junior Tyra Williams (30) stretches for a layup against Cienega Friday night. Photo by Devin Carson


The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team punched their ticket to the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II Girls’ State Basketball Tournament quarterfinals with a win over Cienega High School Friday night.

The Rams came out cold in Friday’s game but used a highly productive second half to run away with a 59-39 victory.

“I can think back to myself being a player and having that last playoff game,” head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “I still have regrets from that moment and I don’t want these guys to have any of those regrets. So I just tried to reiterate the fact that we have seven seniors and they need to go out there and lay it all on the line for us.”

Maricopa utilized a constant rotation of players to keep everyone fresh, and the payoff was evident as the Rams’ endurance didn’t dissipate down the stretch. As the game reached the fourth quarter, Maricopa was able to use pressure defense and fast breaks to exploit holes Cienega.

“I think early on in the season it was our Achilles heel that we didn’t have the bench we have now,” Mitchell said. “Just getting some of those guys involved and keeping them active and making sure everyone is fresh is part of the game plan. It’s vital to have those guys come in.”

Like most games throughout the season, Maricopa entered Friday’s matchup undersized. However, for the players, this was nothing new.

“We’re used to being undersized,” senior forward Raegene Womack said. “We’re not a big team. We just work with it.”

In fact, 5-foot-6 senior Danae Ruiz led all scorers with 22 points.

“We just work together perfectly,” junior forward Tyra Williams added.

The Rams will have their resilience put to the test more than ever when they face top-ranked Seton Catholic High School in the quarterfinals.

In their only meeting this season, Seton Catholic beat Maricopa 76-36. The Rams beat the Sentinels in last year’s state championship game.

“I’m looking forward to what our coach has in mind to get us prepared for this next Seton game,” Womack said. “I know we have to run, but other than that, I’m ready to play them.”

Seton Catholic enters the quarterfinals as the top-ranked team in the state (across all divisions) and a top 25 team in the nation, according to the “Xcellent 25 Writer’s Poll.”

“I think we just have to play to our strengths,” Mitchell said. “We can’t let the team in front of us dictate what we’re going to do on the basketball court. We have a lot of work cut out, but I think we can definitely do it.”

The quarterfinals are set to tip-off Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. at Gila River Arena in Glendale.

Senior Danae Ruiz brings the ball downcourt while taking charge in the second half. Photo by Devin Carson
Senior Danae Ruiz brings the ball downcourt while taking charge in the second half. Photo by Devin Carson



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Halvorson takes 6th in state wrestling

Junior Ashia Laidler Nelson. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team is the last winter athletics team with a chance to win a state title.

The defending champion Lady Rams finished the regular season ranked eighth in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II Girls’ Basketball Power Rankings. The top-eight ranking guaranteed Maricopa a spot in the state tournament and allows them to get two extra days of rest by having a bye for the tournament’s first round.

“We’re really scrappy, but I think we have lapses boxing out that we need to address before we play teams like Seton [Catholic],” head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “I think we’ll try to adjust accordingly to whoever we have.”

The girls will play at home on Friday at 7 p.m. against the winner of 24th-ranked Marana High School (Tucson) and ninth-ranked Cienega High School (Vail). Seton Catholic, which Maricopa defeated last year for the state title, has the top seed.

For the boys’ basketball team, a 10-game winning streak in the middle of the season and a trip to the AIA Division III Section V semi-finals weren’t enough to clinch a spot in the state tournament. Four straight losses to close out the regular season dropped the Rams to 28th in the state ranking.

“We finished just outside the top 24, which was a tough pill to swallow,” Neill said. “It is difficult to look back knowing that if we could have turned one of those losses into wins it could have gotten us in.”

The boys’ team finished fifth in Section V with 4-5 conference record took a “step in the right direction,” according to the coach, by improving last year’s 15-15 overall record to 17-11 this season.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson
Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

“I was extremely pleased with this season,” Head Coach Jacob Neill said. “We fell just short of qualifying for the state tournament but that doesn’t take away from what we accomplished on the court. Our goal was to come out and be competitive to give ourselves a chance to win on a nightly basis, and we did just that. We didn’t always get the win but our guys played hard and competed from start to finish every time we stepped on the floor.”

In wrestling, junior Dakota Halverson was the only Ram to make it to the AIA Division II State Wrestling Meet. Halverson won his first two matches of the tournament, but tough losses in his next three matches dropped him to sixth place overall.

Photo by Devin Carson
Photo by Devin Carson

Halverson has made back-to-back trips to the state tournament, and he will look to make another run at the state title in 2017.

“I wanted to see improvement,” head coach Erick Fierro said. “I saw a lot of impressive wrestling from my kids and that’s what I wanted to see.”

It has been a promising year for Maricopa athletics, and spring sports (baseball, softball, track and field and tennis) will look to keep the momentum going as they get under way this month.

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Josh Johnson shoots free throws against one of the top teams in the state. Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School boys’ basketball may have played their last game of the 2015-16 season in a losing effort Friday night against Scottsdale Christian Academy in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division III Section V Tournament semi-finals.

The Rams beat Blue Ridge High School (Lakeside) in the first round of the section tournament Wednesday night, but couldn’t overcome the section’s top ranked-team Friday. Scottsdale Christian jumped out to a 23 point lead at halftime and, despite a furious comeback attempt from Maricopa in the second half, held on for a victory.

“When you’re playing the best team in the state, and they’re making shot after shot after shot, it’s tough to deal with,” head coach Jacob Neill said. “Then in the second half, we came out and our shots finally started falling for us and that allowed us to get into our press.”

The Rams utilized their speed and aggressive play to frustrate Scottsdale Christian throughout the second half. After scoring 39 first-half points, the Eagles were held to just 10 in the third quarter.

“The first half, we really weren’t pressuring the ball,” sophomore Josh Johnson said. “The second half, we came out and we started pressuring the ball a bit. That got [Scottsdale Christian] uncomfortable.”

Maricopa scored 25 points in the third quarter to get within six points of the Eagles. However, fatigue set in for the Rams.

“When you press like that you do get fatigued and you do get tired,” Neill said. “As they went along they were also able to see where the weaknesses in our press were, and they were able to attack those a little more.”

Maricopa entered the game ranked 30th in the AIA Power Rankings. In order to make the top 24, the players knew a memorable performance was needed.

“We came out in the second half and put our hearts and souls into it,” senior guard Johnny Johnson Jr. said. “This might be our last game, and everyone came out and played with a lot of effort and a lot of heart.”

The Rams moved up to 28th position in Saturday morning’s rankings. It is unlikely for Maricopa to jump four more spots without playing another game, but the rankings will receive a final update before the playoff brackets are set next week.

“It’s a waiting game now,” Neill said. “We’re sitting just outside the top 24. Playing Scottsdale Christian should give us a boost to the strength of our schedule, but the fact of the matter is no one really knows how the AIA formula works. The one thing I refuse to do with the guys is have the end of the year speech because there’s still a chance.”

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Photo by Adam Wolfe

The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team lost in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II Section VI Tournament semi-finals but still have a chance for a high seed in the state tournament.

Maricopa fell to Mesa High School for the second time this season, 49-39. The Jackrabbits used a 16-4 run to close out the game and move on to the section finals against Seton Catholic High School Saturday night.

“A lot of girls just had some defensive lapses that cost there in the end,” Mitchell said. “They had wide open layups, and ultimately it led to that run they went on at the very end. I think we just had to get up and play basketball and we didn’t do that tonight.”

During the Rams’ run to the 2015 State Championship, Maricopa made it to the section finals before losing to Seton Catholic. The Rams were able to rally and make an incredible run to the state title as the tournament’s 12 seed. However, this season will likely shape up differently.

The Rams entered the section tournament ranked sixth in the AIA Power Rankings. A win would have guaranteed them a spot in the top eight and earned Maricopa a bye in the first round of the state tournament.

However, the loss drops them to the eighth spot in the rankings, and now the Rams have to wait and see whether or not they drop out of contention for a bye week.

“I think with this being a power-ranking game, the loss will hurt us a bit,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully it doesn’t hurt us too bad. We’d like the opportunity to get back and play the likes of Seton and those guys for another run.”

If the Rams drop out of the top eight, they will host their first-round opponent. If they are victorious, they will travel to a top-eight seed to play the second round. If they stay in the top eight, they will host the second-round game before moving to Gila River Arena in Glendale for the remainder of their games.

Mitchell’s focus is to work on the basics to get his team prepared for another run at the state title.

“We’re really scrappy, but I think we have lapses boxing out that we need to address before we play teams like Seton,” Mitchell said. “I think we’ll try to adjust accordingly to whoever we have.”

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“No matter what we do we aren’t going to make everybody happy with this decision,” MUSD Governing Board President Patti Coutre said. Photo by Devin Carson

After postponing the decision at its last meeting, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board voted to eliminate two “teacher in-service” days and extend the 2016-17 winter break but not change the starting date from Aug. 8, 2016.

During their last meeting on Jan. 27, the board reconsidered next year’s starting date after teachers voiced their concerns regarding the school breaking away from synchronized schedules with surrounding districts. However, after gathering data for two weeks, the board unanimously voted to uphold next year’s starting date.

Click to see the calendar

“No matter what we do we aren’t going to make everybody happy with this decision,” MUSD Governing Board President Patti Coutre said. “We have to do what is best for our students and for our district.”

Board member Torri Anderson, who felt it was too late in the process to change the starting date, echoed Coutre’s sentiment.

“It’s not up to us to figure out if the district changes their calendar,” Anderson said. “No [other districts] asked us [when they changed their calendars].”

The board also heard a presentation from Maricopa High School regarding their expanded dual-enrollment offerings and academic progress.

MHS Principal Renita Myers and staff speak achievements and new courses. Photo by Devin Carson
MHS Principal Renita Myers and staff speak achievements and new courses. Photo by Devin Carson

The high school has been successful in implementing their blended learning program into freshman and sophomore classes this school year. MHS also has plans to expand their foreign language curriculum by offering Spanish III and German I and II, and add additional English and math classes to the dual-enrollment offerings for the 2016-17 school year.

“I want to compliment you guys on how wonderful you have done with communication,” Coutre said. “As I’ve stated before, if you have a student at the high school and you don’t know what’s going on, you’re living under a rock.”

The MUSD Governing Board will reconvene on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at 6:30 p.m.

Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board. Photo by Devin Carson
Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board. Photo by Devin Carson

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Maricopa High School boys and girls basketball teams are playing in section tourneys.

The Maricopa High School boys and girls basketball teams won their first round games in their respective sectional tournaments.

The girls defeated Queen Creek, 82-55, Tuesday night in Division II Section VI play. It was the second time this season the Rams defeated the Bulldogs.

Next up is eighth-ranked Mesa. That game is tonight at 5:15 at Marcos de Niza High School. The Rams, ranked sixth in Division II, lost to the Jackrabbits by 20 points in December.

The MHS girls are 22-5 overall.

Over in Division III Section V, the Maricopa boys defeated Blue Ridge, 74-53, Wednesday. The Rams had defeated the Yellowjackets less than a month ago by a much tighter score.

The Rams play second-ranked Scottsdale Christian on Friday at 7 p.m. at Valley Christian High School.

Maricopa is 17-10 overall.

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MHS senior Liz Gallon has declared her intention to play volleyball at William Jessup University. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Elizabeth Gallon, a senior middle hitter for the Maricopa High School volleyball team, will be joining a new team in the fall.

Friday, Gallon signed a letter of intent to play for William Jessup University, a private college in Rocklin, California, near Sacramento. With an enrollment of 1,146, WJU competes in the Golden State Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

“I liked the coach and the environment at the school,” the California native said of her campus visit. “It seemed very fun.”

Gallon did not play volleyball until her freshman year. Julia Jefferson, her first high school coach and her Arizona Heat club coach, said she played very well and still has “lots of room for growth” for a college program that is rebuilding after a 6-21 season.

Her senior season at MHS, Gallon had 198 kills, 144 blocks and 73 aces. That was a jump from 67 kills, 105 blocks and 20 aces her junior year.

The Rams’ record this year was 12-17.

Gallon shifted to volleyball after playing junior high basketball, tired of hearing “basketball is in my blood” when she realized she really wasn’t all that excited about it.

Gallon’s mother Lashieka Holley was Jefferson’s assistant coach during Liz’s first three seasons of high school volleyball. This school year, Jefferson stepped down, and Holley became the head coach for her daughter’s senior season.

She said coaching her own daughter has been “difficult but fun at the same time.”

Jefferson said Gallon came to her as a junior and said she might be interested in playing at the next level. Jefferson told her there many opportunities and spoke to Holley about the possibilities. Knowing WJU coach Shasta Millhollin-Bossom, who is in her first year at WJU and previously coached at Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Jefferson is excited about Gallon’s future.

“I think she’ll do extremely well,” Jefferson said.

Gallon has not decided on a field of study. Holley said her daughter may be leaning toward biology.

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Senior Jaleesa Rodriquez shows some power inside as the Rams take down Desert Ridge by 10 points. Photo by William Lange

The Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team will have to get through two of Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II’s top eight teams in order to win a section title.

The Rams clinched the third seed for the Section VI Tournament after defeating Desert Ridge High School (Mesa) 59-49 Tuesday night. The win allows Maricopa to play the lowest qualifying team in the first round of the tournament.

If the Rams get past Queen Creek High School in the first round, they will move on to face Mesa High School in the semi-finals, and likely the state’s top-ranked team, Seton Catholic High School, in the finals.

“We need to make sure everybody is engaged in what’s going on,” head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “Our transition game has always been our strength, but we have a tendency to revert from some of those things, so that’s our biggest Achilles heel.”

Maricopa lost early season meetings to both Mesa and Seton Catholic. However, this time around the Rams should be near full strength and feature dynamic players such as Tyra Williams, who missed the teams’ previous encounters. Injured at the end of Tuesday’s game was senior Allyssa Haley.raegene-KO

Maricopa finished second in last year’s section tournament before going on to win the state championship.

“We need to make sure everyone is on the same page,” Mitchell said. “[We need to] make sure everyone knows what they’re doing when they step out onto the floor. [We need to] get the subs more involved and active in the game even though they’re on the bench.”

Maricopa will play Queen Creek on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m. at Marcos de Niza High School in Tempe.

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Maricopa High School will host the Rams Catchers Camp March 7-9 from 8 to 10 a.m.

The camp for students in grades six through eight who want to improve their catching skills. The camp will focus on stances, receiving, blocking, throwing and the mental aspects of a catcher.

Cost is $30 (checks payable to MHS Rams Homerun).

Equipment needed for camp includes baseball cleats, tennis shoes, baseball pants, belt and hat. Catcher’s equipment would be preferred is not mandatory.

For more information, contact Coach Andrew Pollak at 520-568-8100, ext. 4061 or apollak@musd20.org.

MHS Theatre Company performs the romantic comedy "The Philadelphia Story" Feb. 4-6 in the MHS Lecture Hall. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Among theater buffs, The Philadelphia Story is known as the play that saved Katharine Hepburn’s career.

The romantic comedy is the winter production of the Maricopa High School Theatre Company, in performance Feb. 4-6.

Written by Philip Barry in 1939, the play is about wealthy socialite Tracy Lord preparing for her second marriage. The arrival of her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven and a pair of journalists on the eve of the wedding throws her life into tumult.

Director Cynthia Calhoun said she looked at the play when her first choice for the winter play was tangled in royalty issues. A Master Teacher at Maricopa High School, she had just used the movie version of The Philadelphia Story in a film critique section.

Dubbed “box-office poison” in the late ‘30s, Hepburn left Hollywood for New York looking for a project to revive her career. She was a financial backer for the The Philadelphia Story, which was written for her, and acquired the film rights. The play and the movie were smash hits.

“I remembered how much I loved the movie,” Calhoun said. “And they loved it.”

In seeing the difference in the script between the movie and the original play, junior Dylan Stradling, who plays Dexter, realized his character had been combined with another for the film version.

Who: Maricopa High School Theatre Company
What: “The Philadelphia Story”
When: 7 p.m., Feb. 4-6
Where: MHS Lecture Hall, 45012 W. Honeycutt Ave.
How much: Tickets are $5
More info: 520-568-8100

“It was interesting to develop that one side of it,” he said.

MHS Theatre Company gives the whole Lord family a multicultural look with its casting, using talent and chemistry for those decisions. One male role was turned into a female role.

“We have always been gender- and color-blind,” Calhoun said.

The comedy of the play relies on character and witty dialogue, as opposed to the broad comedy of “The Pirates of Penzance,” the company’s previous production.

“I like that it’s so complicated, and it ends in a way you wouldn’t expect,” said junior Carlos Venegas, who plays reporter Macaulay Conner.

Calhoun said the production has been one of the smoothest she’s experienced. The 10-member cast and other company members are responsible for most of the set and costumes as well.

They are coming off a big boost of adrenaline from the Central Arizona Festival of Theatre at Mesa Community College. The MHS students competed Jan. 30.

Senior Shelby Hanks, who is the student director for The Philadelphia Story, earned straight Superior scores for her solo musical performance. She was selected to compete at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. Calhoun said that is an honor for students who earn straight marks of Superior from the judges.

Senior Ashley Riecken received a score of Excellent for her costume design for The Philadelphia Story and a Superior rating from one judge for her musical solo.

Venegas earned an Excellent for his solo musical performance. Junior Nikolas Mase included an operatic aria in his solo and earned Superior and Excellent marks.

Senior Patrick Decker and freshman Aleyna Call earned an Excellent score for their duet.

MHS students also performed “With Cat-Like Tread” from The Pirates of Penzance. They included Venegas, Stradling, Mase, Hanks, Riecken, Brandon Korritky, Aidyn Curtis, Tyler Curtis, Mahkai Ball, Sarah Ledbetter, Seth Hendrickson, Ashley Lynn and Maria Santillan.

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Senior Raegene Womack goes for two. Photo by William Lange

Maricopa High School girls’ basketball rode an eight game winning streak into the final week of the season.

The Rams hit a rough patch in the middle of the season when they lost back-to-back games against Valley Christian High School and Seton Catholic High School (the latter by 40 points). Since then, Maricopa has won in dominant fashion and climbed to a season-high sixth place in the Arizona Interscholastic Association Division II Power Rankings.

“We’ve developed a few bad habits that we have to correct,” head coach Melvin Mitchell said. “We (commit fouls thinking) we can block every shot and not do the things that we need to do to be successful, so those are things we need to work on moving forward.”

The team’s recent success can be attributed to the team’s health nearing 100 percent. The Rams lost junior forward Tyra Williams early in the year, and many feared her season would be over. However, Williams is back on the floor and playing at a high level.

“We’re coming off a couple of injuries, so we’re trying to get those girls going and slowly work them back in,” Mitchell said.

Dominant play from senior Raegene Womack and Danae Ruiz have also contributed to the team’s winning streak.

If the Rams can hold on to a top eight ranking, Maricopa will receive a first round bye in the AIA state playoffs, and host their first playoff game in the second round of the tournament.

“I think we’re set up pretty good,” Mitchell said. “I think we’ll be pretty competitive going in. Hopefully we can go to state with the attitude that every game will be our last.”

Maricopa will finish out the regular season on Feb. 5 before beginning the Section VI Tournament on Feb. 9, at Marcos De Niza High School in Tempe.

Senior Danae Ruiz (center) and Tyra Williams make something  happen. Photo by William Lange
Senior Danae Ruiz (center) and Tyra Williams make something happen. Photo by William Lange