For the first time in their history, the Maricopa High School girls basketball team will play for a state title.
The girls came from behind again in a classic semifinal matchup Friday afternoon to knock off Ironwood Ridge, the other Cinderella team in their side of the bracket, 59-50. See the gallery and add your own photos.
The Rams will face Seton Catholic, a team they have lost twice to this season. The Sentinels are ranked No. 2 to Maricopa’s 12th.
“I’m ready. I’ve been wanting to play them for the longest,” said senior Jamila Rogers. “They’re a good team, though, so we’ve got to be ready.”
Maricopa plays the young and tall Seton Catholic team Monday at 2 p.m. at Gila River Arena in Glendale.
Against Ironwood Ridge, the ninth-ranked team in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Division II, the Rams trailed 12-9 after the first quarter.
The Nighthawks stayed just out of reach for most of the second, but then Maricopa kicked it up a notch. The Rams pushed past Ironwood Ridge with just over a minute to play and led by one at the half, 24-23.
“We played defense, and we worked hard,” sophomore Tyra Williams said in explaining the turnaround.
Six points from senior Tiara Edmond helped the Rams widen the gap on the ‘Hawks with some 31-23 breathing room. Junior Danae Ruiz was able to shake off a first half in the doldrums with revived scoring. By the end of the third quarter, the lead was 5.
Ironwood drew within 4 early in the fourth, but never got as close again. The game became more and more physical as the Rams drew away to finish it off.
***ADVERTISEMENT***Ruiz scored 11 of her game-leading 13 points in the second half. Junior Raegene Womack scored 12, and Edmond and senior Ashleigh Haley finished with nine apiece.
With help from boosters, two buses full of fans drove to Grand Canyon University to cheer on the team, which again had thunderous backup from the MHS pep band in a setting that was new to all.
“There were nerves at first because we’ve never been this far, but it was a good one,” Rogers said.