Mesa, AZ - In a roller coaster championship game for the ages, the #7 Mesa Thunderbirds edge out the #9 Pima Aztecs, 74-72, winning the Region I Championship.
In a loud, packed Theo Heap Gym, the T-Birds brought home their fourth Region I Championship in the last six years. Led by tournament Most Valuable Player, Sham Troupe, Mesa assembled a strong 46-29 first half advantage.
Mesa tickled the twine from three in the first half, getting two big three pointer's each from Tori Lloyd and Deja Dagons. Layups from Sham Troupe and Anessa Glenn, with two free throws from Gianna Grumbien helped Mesa finish out the half with a 17 point advantage, 46-29.
Like any good competitor, Pima did not lay down and give up. The Aztecs mounted an improbable comeback, cutting the T-Bird lead to 10 after the third quarter, 60-50. Pima continued to chip away in the fourth quarter, cutting the Mesa lead to three with under four minutes to play.
With the crowd screaming and yelling, the emotion of the game went up a full notch. Every possession was treated like a piece of fine jewelry and the execution became much more exact.
Both teams would exchange layups and jumpshots, free-throws and timeouts until the 2:20 mark of the fourth quarter when Pima tied the game at 70. An errant Mesa in bounce pass landed in the Aztecs hands, and Pima made a layup to take a 72-70 lead.
With about a minute and half to play, Takara Wade made one of two free throws to cut the Aztec lead to 72-71, but it was Wade's hustle to get her own rebound that was crucial for Mesa as Head Coach Kori Stephenson called a full timeout.
A Tori Lloyd free throw pushed the lead to 74-72 and with one last failed three point attempt by Pima, Mesa closed out the Region I championship.
Leading Mesa in scoring was Anessa Glenn, who had 19 points, four rebounds and three assists. Allies Fuller finished with 17 points, four rebounds and Tori Lloyd finished with 11 points, seven assists and two steals. Sham Trouple, finished with nine points, three rebounds and two assists.
The T-Birds will now head to the National Tournament that is being held in Harrison, Arkansas, March 21-25 at the Pioneer Pavilion. Further details of game times and broadcast links will be provided within the next few days. Continue to check for updates on the mesatbirdsports.com website.