Just like every other aspect of her game, Sabrina Haines has worked on controlling the mini-outbursts directed at no one but herself.
Haines is ultra-competitive and has been since the very start of her athletic career, but there are times when the Desert Vista junior admittedly beats herself up too much when something on the basketball court goes awry.
“I’m getting better about it,” she said with a smirk. “At least I think I am. I just expect a lot and want to win so much that I get mad when I don’t make a play or miss a shot.”
Haines didn’t have to worry about it too much on Tuesday when the Thunder handled rival Mountain Pointe 61-45 in the Division I state tournament.
She scored a team-high 17 points with five rebounds and four assists to help push fifth-seeded Desert Vista (28-2) in the state semifinals for the first time since 2004. The Thunder take on No. 1 Dobson (29-2) at 6 p.m. Friday at Wells Fargo Arena.
The two teams met on Dec. 21 in the Nike Tournament of Champions with the Thunder coming away a 53-42 win.
The Mustangs have won 14 straight and sit at No. 12 in the MaxPreps national rankings. The Thunder, ranked No. 29 by MaxPreps, are 26-0 against Arizona teams not named Mesquite, which was eliminated on Tuesday.
It has the makings of an epic battle; the kind Haines was hoping for when she transferred from Mountain View after last season when the family moved into the district.
“She loves to win,” Thunder coach J’ontar Coleman said. “She can be hard on herself, but it’s that competitive drive that makes her so good. Bri plays big in big games.”
Haines, a 5-foot-10 guard, has been a great compliment to established stars Emily Wolph and Kristine Anigwe along with role players like senior Lindsey Payton. She quickly became the third offensive threat most high school teams don’t have along with adding a toughness and quickness that fit perfectly in the Thunder’s style.
“We all get our chances and it just flows through our offense,” said Haines, who played with or against most of the players before in club ball. “We’re not worried about who scores. We just want to win.”
Haines is averaging 9.9 points, 3.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.1 assists. She is deadly from the top of the key, her quick first step gets her into the lane and she gets her hands on a lot of lazy passes, including five deflections against Mesquite.
With that said, her biggest intangible quality is her desire to win. The Thunder had pretty much the same roster last year and won only 18. The addition of Haines isn’t the sole reason Desert Vista is in the semifinals, but it doesn’t hurt either.
“Ever since I was little, my parents told me hustle is the most important thing,” she said. “It’s the way I’ve always played. I play as hard as I can and all I want to do is win.”
The college recruiters have noticed as well, as Haines has had nine colleges make serious contact including UNLV, Grand Canyon, Arizona State, Texas Tech, Seton Hall, Colorado, Oregon State and Eastern Carolina.
“It’s comforting knowing I’ll have the opportunity to play in college,” she said. “It’s great, but nothing I am focused on right now.”
That’s because the Thunder have openly talked about winning the school’s first state championship since the very start of the season.
And now they are two wins away from pulling it off and Haines, along with her diminishing mini-outbursts, has a lot to do with it.
“We are focused and there are two games left to be played,” Haines said. “You think about winning it all, but we know we have to get there first and we have to play our best game to get that chance.”
• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.