Different season. Different team.
But what hasn’t changed for Salt River is that it’s once again one of the favorites in the Division III state title girls basketball race. Last year’s state championship team had more depth, but this season’s squad is likely more united.
The togetherness helped Salt River manage the loss of two key players during the Christmas break.
“We don’t really have anybody who stands out that much,” coach Shawn Lytle said. “We tasted the title last year and want to come out and get another one.”
It lost two players, but Salt River also gained an all-around talent in Tuba City senior transfer Ashley Lomavaya, who leads the team in points (16.1) assists (5.3) and steals (4.5).
Homegrown player Joy Manuel also calls Salt River home. The four-year varsity player is one of the unsung heroes of the 28-3 team.
With an 7.3 average per game, Manuel leads her team in rebounding. Salt River is the No. 3 seed in the state tournament and lost its only D-IV game to No. 4 seed Gilbert Christian.
Below is a look at some of the top teams in the tournament.
Valley Union: The 26-6 team received the No. 1 seed and is lead by Kortney Haines (13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals per game), Yesenia Gamez (10 points, 5 steals per game), Jasmine Guadarrama (10 points per game. “We have a great group of girls who are pretty tight knit,” coach Bart Haines said.
Valley: The No. 5 seed is 17-6. Four-year letterman Rolanda Mitchell (15 points, 5 assists per game), Tamara Nez (18 points, 6 steals per game), and sophomore Latisha Nastacio (12 points per game) are the team’s stat leaders. Valley is averaging 63.6 points per game.
Gilbert Christian: The No. 4 seed (25-5) lost 4-year point guard Colleen Young to an injury, but freshman guard Lauryn Satterwhit (15 points, 5 rebounds per game) has stepped up. Sophomore Cassidy Curtner has made 32 3-pointers, and Meg van Rijn leads the team with 28 blocks.
Fort Thomas: Shania Dona and Klara Goseyun are averaging a combined 28.4 points per game for the No. 6 seed (18-13).
St. Gregory: The “bookend” team with six seniors and five freshmen is 25-4-1 and earned the No. 2 seed. Senior Grace Baranowski is averaging 19.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game.
Tempe Prep: Camille Zimmerman is likely the top player participating in the D-IV tournament. Besides averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds per game, Zimmerman also is shooting 86 percent from the free throw line for Tempe Prep (No. 12 seed, 17-12 overall record). “I know everyone has counted us out, but they shouldn’t,” coach Nancy Calahan said. “We are a program that has something to prove: That we aren’t just a one hit wonder.”
Desert Christian: The No. 10 seed lost its point guard to a concussion, battled through other injuries and illnesses and players some players opting not play but still finished with the No. 10 seed.