On Senior Night, Maricopa High School girls basketball senior Italy Brookshire, Jene Brown, Jayla Johnson, Destinee Chavis, Jade Placer and Divere Brown joined coach RaShawn Culvert in celebrating a winning year and their 19th victory with two games left in the regular season. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

It’s been a winning season that is just turning tougher as the playoffs approach.

Ranked eighth in Arizona’s 5A conference, the Maricopa High School girls’ basketball team has two games left to play with the state bracket on the line. Their final opponents of the regular season, Casteel and Gilbert, have both defeated the Rams this year.

“It’s going well, but we’ve got more goals we want to reach,” head coach RaShawn Calvert said. “We’ve got to take them one at a time and hopefully come away with the win and then lead into the playoffs.”

Teams ranked in the top eight at the end of the season automatically qualify for the state bracket. Teams ranked nine through 24 must go through the play-in tournament to earn a place. The Rams are 19-5 overall.

“They came in with goals they wanted to set, goals they wanted to reach,” Calvert said. “Regardless of changes with new people, for the most part it’s been the same group. We just had to figure out a way to get as far as we wanted to get.”

They are third in the 5A San Tan Region behind Gilbert and Casteel. Gilbert is ranked second in 5A statewide. Tuesday, Maricopa won its final home game, a 46-33 victory over Higley.

Calvert said team chemistry has improved throughout the season.

“Just playing together offensively, knowing each other, I think that’s improved the most,” she said. “New players, new coach at the same time, you got to get to know them, they got to get to know me. But chemistry has gone really well and has improved, I’d say, every single game.”

Of the five teams that have defeated the Rams this year, three were 5A teams, one was 3A Chinle, and O’Connor is in 6A. All but one have winning records, the outlier being 5-19 Campo Verde, which faced the Rams when they were dealing with injuries.

Consistency has been a sticking point for Maricopa.

“Whether it’s defensively or executing our plays, we’ve got to get more consistent, especially against the tougher teams,” Calvert said. “That’s what it’s going to come down to if we want to get the win.”

The girls next play Casteel (13-10) on the road Friday at 7 p.m. The Colts previously defeated the Rams, 43-28. Maricopa ends the regular season Feb. 5 at Gilbert (18-5), which earlier defeated the Rams, 73-40. How the Rams perform in their final two games will impact their ranking and the state bracket.

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