Lady Wranglers receive ironic gift for playoff spot?

Senior forward Sadie White will be one of two Lady Wranglers who will be recognized on Senior Night when the girls host Tonopah Valley in their final home game of the season Thursday, Feb. 13. She scored nine points against Kingman Academy and seven points against River Valley last week. 

By Kevin Cloe

Sun Correspondent/

Photographer

Touché.

That might be an appropriate response by the Wickenburg High School athletic department to Kingman Academy High.

The Wranglers’ girls basketball team slipped into sole possession of second place in the 3A West Region standings last week — temporarily qualifying for the 3A Conference state playoffs. The reason for that pending state playoff qualification is that previous second place co-occupant Kingman Academy’s “forfeit win” late last month against a River Valley team that did not have five players to put on the court.

However, the Arizona Interscholastic Association (governing body of high school athletic competitions in Arizona) does not recognize “forfeits.” Instead, the AIA refers to them as cancellations and does not award a victory to the affected team. So in the 3A West Region standings heading into the league’s final week of action, the Lady Wranglers have a 5-4 record compared to Kingman Academy’s 4-4 mark, with each team playing just one more region contest.

So why would the Wranglers’ athletic department want to send Kingman Academy a touché message?

This past fall, Kingman Academy cancelled its final five football games — including against the Wranglers — due to not having enough players to field a full team. The AIA shows the Wranglers finishing the season with a 4-5 record, which would have been the school’s first losing record in football since 2014. However, head football coach Mike Mitchell has claimed the national high school rules regarding forfeits gives the affected team a 1-0 victory, so he is considering his Wranglers finished the 2019 season with a 5-5 record.

So now the team that caused that situation in football — Kingman Academy — might be the victim (denied a state playoff invitation) of a similar situation in basketball.

Coach Kevin Cushman’s Lady Wranglers might have actually clinched a state playoff spot last week when it routed host Kingman Academy by 21 points, 51-30, early last week. The Lady Wranglers’ fourth consecutive victory avenged their earlier 41-37 loss to the Lady Tigers.

Sophomore guard Katie Cushman led the way with 19 points, followed by sophomore guard Clare Peterson’s 11 and senior forward Sadie White’s nine points.

The Lady Wranglers almost faced that same “forfeit” fate late last week when they hosted the struggling River Valley team, which only brought five girls on the road trip. One of the girls, though, suffered a bloody nose early in the second quarter — forcing the Lady Dust Devils to play with only four players for about three minutes. Fortunately, the game could continue due to the player shortage being temporary.

In a defensive battle, the Lady Wranglers held a thin 12-8 lead through the first half but hit their first six shots of the second half to zoom to a 12-point cushion (24-12) and finished with a 15-point victory, 37-22.

None of the Lady Wranglers scored in double figures in the low-scoring contest, with Cushman finishing with eight points while White added seven.

As mentioned earlier, region competition ended Tuesday. The Lady Wranglers traveled to region-leading Northwest Christian, hoping to repeat their earlier 29-24 victory in handing the Lady Crusaders their only West Region loss this season.

If the Lady Wranglers lost to Northwest Christian, and Kingman Academy defeated host Chino Valley Tuesday, Coach Cushman’s girls would most likely sit out the state playoffs. If they didn’t finish second in the region standings, they would need to finish the regular season ranked at No. 24 or higher in the 3A Conference power points standings to qualify for the state playoffs. They began the week at No. 28, and it would be difficult to climb four positions with two non-region victories against visiting Tonopah Valley and host Odyssey Institute this week to close out the regular season.

If, however, Kingman Academy lost to Chino Valley Tuesday, the Lady Wranglers would successfully finish second in the 3A West Region and can prepare to play in the state playoffs, regardless how they fared against Northwest Christian.

Their non-region contest against Tonopah Valley at 5:30 p.m. Thursday is Senior Night, when the Lady Wranglers’ two graduating seniors — Sadie White and Alexa Murillo – will receive special recognition.

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