The Desert Vista girls basketball team wants a shot at an upset so the Thunder made it clear early Friday night they weren't going to let that opportunity slip by.
Ever since the Division I state brackets came out last weekend, the No. 6 Thunder have known they got a raw deal with the draw and would get a shot at St. Mary's, which is somehow seeded No. 3 in the state tournament but ranked as high as No. 1 in the nation.
Desert Vista clearly did not look past No. 11 Valley Vista in the second round as the Thunder jumped out to an early double-digit lead and the Monsoon never got it any closer in the 73-48 win.
"We we knew we couldn't look past them because they were ranked lower than us," senior center Tinisha Toussaint said. "We had to come out and play above what we are and make sure we got to the next round."
Desert Vista led 11-2 when Valley Vista called timeout with possession. After the inbounds, the Thunder started a press and forced a 10-second violation and the defensive pressure set the tone the rest of the way.
The Thunder (25-6) advances to the state quarterfinals against St. Mary's (27-0). The game is Monday at 4:15 p.m. at Arizona State's Wells Fargo Arena.
"We have to pull off the biggest upset in the state," Thunder coach Desert Vista coach Rachel Proudfoot said. "There's no other way to approach it. Take your best shot and come away with the win."
Valley Vista (26-8) had a similar approach against the Thunder. The Monsoon lacked the size of their opponent but they never backed down, fought through an oddly called game by the referees and played tough all four quarters.
Valley Vista coach Rachel Matakas, which has led the program to four straight 20-plus win seasons in its five years of existence, said they missed opportunities early as the team struggled with the size disadvantage.
"We missed 15 layups so it came down to execution," she said. "We played hard and fought for 32 minutes. I can't hang my head because the kids played hard. We are not used to the size. On the west side, we don't see that. Sometimes the kids overestimated the shot because of it."
Maraja Johnson, the team's leading scorer, did her part by scoring a game-high 21 and was backed by Peyton Chavez's 12 but the difference came in the rebounding.
Desert Vista, which has three players at 6-foot-1 or taller, had 47 rebounds, while Valley Vista, which doesn't have anyone taller than 5-9 on the roster, had only 23.
It was evident early on that 6-3 and Weber State-bound Toussaint was going to have a field day as she finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots.
The Thunder's other 6-footers did some damage as well. Senior Jaymee Brugman finished with 19 points and seven rebounds and freshman Kristine Anigwe had 13 points and seven rebounds.
Desert Vista, which led 21-7 after one and 51-28 after three, played well but they all know they have to be at their best come Monday.
"It's going to be a good game," Toussaint said. "We're ready."
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