The Nogales High School girls basketball team started their season on the right note Monday, defeating Ironwood Ridge 51-44.
Nogales fell behind early in the game and trailed 10-4 halfway through the first quarter. But they regrouped after a timeout, starting with a pair of free throws by Jessica Villarino. Next, Daniella Ochoa was fouled on a scoring drive and converted the free throw to cut Ironwood Ridge’s advantage to 10-9. Then Cecy Burrell scored on a fast break to give NHS the lead with 1:46 left in the quarter.
Ironwood Ridge briefly went back ahead, but when Villarino stole the ball and scored on a break, it gave Nogales a lead they would hold for the rest of the game.
Burrell capped off an 8-0 run with a three pointer, and the Apaches led 17-12 after one quarter.
The margin grew to double-digits when Burrell hit another three-pointer with a minute left in the second quarter, and Mia Rodriguez followed with a runner with 33 seconds left that made it 30-18 in favor of Nogales.
NHS took a 31-20 lead into halftime, but Ironwood Ridge cut the lead to 34-29 at the start of the third quarter. Then Ochoa took control for Nogales, scoring on a jumper in the lane and feeding Astrid Zubiate for a layup. Next, Ochoa hit a three-pointer with 3:34 left in the quarter, and scored on a fast break 20 seconds later that gave NHS a 43-31 advantage.
Ironwood Ridge got as close as five points on two occasions in the fourth quarter. But Burrell hit two free throws with six seconds left to ice the win.
Burrell was the high scorer in the game with 16 points – 14 in the first half – followed by Ochoa with 12. Zubiate added seven and Villarino had five.
The Apaches’ regular season-opening win came after they went 4-2 at the Welcome to Our Backyard preseason tournament hosted by Queen Creek High School.
Their next game is set for Wednesday at Palo Verde, followed by a game Thursday at Marana. They host Tucson on Monday, Dec. 6, starting at 7 p.m.