By Brittany Bowyer
The top-ranked Hamilton Huskies are going back to the Class 6A girls basketball final after defeating the No. 4 Dobson Mustangs 57-31 on Wednesday.
After a crushing loss in last year’s championship game against Valley Vista, Hamilton will look to avenge that defeat and claim the title with its deep roster filled with upperclassmen.
Getting back to the final has been the goal from the minute the season ended last year. With a big group of returning players, Hamilton head coach Trevor Neider knew the team had what it took to be right back in the race once again this season.
Rattled by the initial news of no winter sports before the decision was overturned, the Huskies have made the most of every opportunity they’ve had to get on the hardwood. While it’s been an overall team effort to get to this point in the season, the leadership from seniors such as Amyah Reaves, Raegan Farrington, Graciela Roybal and Vanessa Washington have elevated the team to another level.
The game against Dobson was no different. It was a bit of a slow start for Hamilton, but Farrington made a basket and drew a foul in the first quarter that would become the spark plug for the offense to get things rolling.
“I’ve been told my whole life pretty much that I’m the most dominant player, so I really came out today believing that,” Farrington said. “I knew it was my last time on this home court, so I knew I had to come show out. It was a really good feeling knowing I could come in and do my part for the team.”
Dobson continued to fight, with a long three from senior Rachel Early tying the score at 15-15 early in the second. It didn’t take long for Hamilton to jump back out to a bit of a lead, though, as Reaves started to heat up. At the half, the Huskies were leading 29-21 behind Reaves’ 14 points.
Hamilton was able to pull away in the second half after making some defensive adjustments. By taking away the driving lanes for Dobson, forcing the Mustangs to take tough shots from outside and not allowing them time to set up any plays, the Huskies held Dobson to two points in the third quarter while also managing to keep the offensive pace from the first half.
“We just put a lot of energy and we tried to wear them down,” Neider said. “We’ve got more depth, so we knew that was going to be a problem for them. We wanted to keep running them early. I think in the third quarter they hit a little wall and we got a little hot on offense finally and I think that just kind of got them frustrated and got in their heads a little bit.”
Roybal, Washington and freshman Breanna Sommers came up clutch for the Huskies in the second half, each knocking down shots to help Hamilton close the third quarter leading 43-23.
“This program is so amazing and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to work with these amazing coaches, so to see that progress and to see me getting better and contributing to the team means so much to me,” Sommers said.
Dobson attempted to make a rally in the fourth, but it was too little, too late.
“I’m just proud of them the way tonight that they came out,” Mustangs coach Henry Bribiescas said. “Hamilton, we take our hats off to them, they’re a strong team and in the second half they just showed it.”
Said Farrington: “I’m just really happy we got to do it as a team. I’ve been playing with some of these girls for seven or eight years, so I’m really happy I get to do it with them.”
The Huskies will try to win the state championship trophy Saturday, as they tip off against Valley Vista at 5 p.m. at Mesquite High School.
“They’re such a dedicated group and that’s why we had some success, because basketball is important to them. It’s not rec to them; it’s what they do,” Neider said.
“We put a lot of work in and I know that we deserve it,” Farrington added. “So, for the next couple practices, I know we’re going to come in, have a good time, come in really strong, prepare for Valley because we know exactly what we need to do.”
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