The Rio Rico Hawks overcame a sluggish start to take a halftime lead. But then they went flat again in the second half and fell to the Palo Verde Titans 60-49 in a girls basketball matchup on Monday at the MLK Classic in Tucson.
“I just felt like we weren’t really inspired. It’s disappointing when you walk into a gym like this to not play with passion,” Rio Rico coach Billy Hix said, in reference to the game’s location at the University of Arizona’s McKale Center.
The game was one of seven played at the venue as part of the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day high school basketball showcase, sponsored by Coaches for Charity and the Tucson Unified School District.
It took the Hawks four minutes to score their first basket of their mid-afternoon matchup, which came on a drive by Luisayde Chavez that made the score 7-2 in favor of Palo Verde. They closed the gap to 11-10 when April Martinez stole the ball and went in for a layup and Chavez followed with another scoring drive to close out the first quarter.
Martinez opened the second period with a three-pointer to give Rio Rico its first lead of the game. Then, after Palo Verde surged ahead 20-13, she hit back-to-back baskets – including a three-pointer – and Chavez followed with two free throws to tie the score.
With 26 seconds left in the half, Peyton Lunderville put Rio Rico ahead 25-21 with a three-pointer from the baseline. But Palo Verde’s Angel Addleman scored and drew a foul with three seconds left. She converted the free throw and Rio Rico went into the locker room with a narrow one-point advantage.
A pair of baskets by Nicolette Pesqueira early in the third quarter had Rio Rico ahead 31-30, and two more buckets by Chavez evened the score at 37 after the Hawks fell behind. But Palo Verde finished the period on a five-point run and grew their lead throughout the fourth quarter to win by 11.
Chavez finished with a game-high 21 points and Martinez had 17.
“We’re not so good that we can just show up and beat people,” Hix said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re inspired every night, that we have a purpose and our goals are what we’re striving to accomplish. And tonight wasn’t that.”
The loss dropped Rio Rico to 6-4 overall and 2-1 in the 4A Gila Region. They are set to play at Amphitheater on Tuesday and at home against Pueblo on Thursday starting at 7 p.m.