Yuma girls win district, in The Pit for regional

Yuma High School’s girls basketball team gets to enjoy the comforts of home, and the homecourt, when it hosts a Class 3A regional, Friday and Saturday in The Pit.
“We’re not driving 600 miles for once,” head coach Jeremy Robinson said. “This is the first time in years we get to sleep in our own beds.”

Yuma earned the right to host a regional for the first time since the 2019 championship season by rolling past Prospect Ridge and St. Mary’s Academy in its district tournament, last weekend at Manual High School.
The former Indians, 14-7, are the fourth-seed in the 32-team regional field. Coming to town this weekend are 29th-seed Lyons, 12-10, 13th-seed Grand Valley, 16-6, and 20th-seed Bennett, 18-4.
Yuma plays Lyons at 5:30 p.m. Friday, followed by Grand Valley taking on Bennett.
Friday’s winners will meet in the Sweet 16 on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Robinson noted all the teams have winning records. However, he said he was encouraged by the way his team played in Saturday’s district final.
“That was January’s team (when Yuma went on a nine-game winning streak),” Robinson said. “If we can get back into playing like that, I’d like our chances with anybody.”
Lyons comes to town after taking third in its district tournament, beating Dawson School 30-24 last Saturday. Heritage Christian, which Yuma beat in December, is a common opponent, beating Lyons 60-31 in December. Merino is another common opponent, but both teams were blown out by the 2A top-seed Rams during the regular season.
Bennett has a gaudy record, but the Tigers’ strength of schedule is weak. (Yuma has the toughest strength of schedule in 3A.)
While acknowledging Yuma first must get past the Lions, Robinson said it is Grand Valley that really has his attention. The Cardinals out of Parachute reached the 3A semifinals last year, and returned most players from that team. They are coming to Yuma because they lost 58-50 to North Fork in their district final last Saturday.
“Grand Valley does look pretty good,” Robinson said. “They have two players who do most of their scoring. One is a big guard, and the other shoots a lot of 3-pointers.”
It likely will be a wide-open regional, so Yuma needs to come ready to play all-out.
The girls, after a stretch of playing three games in four days over three consecutive weeks, seemed to work their way back into their groove at the district tournament.
They opened in the semifinals, last Friday afternoon in the Thunderdome at Manual High School, cruising to a 47-21 win over Prospect Ridge.
Yuma seemed to struggle with the deep spaces behind the baskets in the early going, eventually eking out eight points in the first quarter. The former Indians got rolling a bit more in the second, closing the first half with 11 straight points for a 19-5 lead.
They stretched their run to 29 straight points before the Miners finally made a free throw with eight seconds left in the third, their first point since early in the second quarter.
Yuma led 37-6 and put on the finishing touches in the fourth.
“We have to do a better job of starting games,” Robinson said.
Yuma shot just 32 percent, but still won handily as the Miners were held to 21 percent, and enjoyed a 45-23 advantage on the boards.
Lea Richardson had 14 points, seven steals and six rebounds, Jailyn Mekelburg six points and eight rebounds, Alina Moran six points and nine rebounds, Jazmine Sotelo five points, Ashley Ibanez four points and four assists, Liddy Day three points and two rebounds, Caddis Robinson three points, Jade Lungwitz two points and three rebounds, Bailey Nighswonger two points and three rebounds, Lyndsey Mekelburg one point, four rebounds and three steals, Elizabeth Mendoza one point, and Emma Rayl four rebounds and three assists.
Yuma stuck around to watch St. Mary’s Academy dismantle Faith Christian (but only after everyone had to evacuate the school as the fire alarm went off) in the other semifinal.
That seemed to catch Yuma’s attention as the girls came out ready to go in Saturday afternoon’s district final, dominating on their way to a 58-25 win.
They still missed a bunch of shots early, but led 14-4 after the first quarter. Their pressure started getting to the Wildcats as Yuma opened the second on a 10-2 run, and closed the quarter on a 9-2 spurt, including six straight by Richardson, for a 33-12 halftime lead.
Day scored seven straight in the third as Yuma increased its lead to 48-14, then cruised through the fourth for the district title.
“That’s something we talked about,” Robinson said, of getting back to a higher level of play. “I take some of the blame for that, because we were just trying to grind through all those games (in February). They bounced back and did a great job. That’s how we played in January.”
Yuma was a bit better from the floor, shooting 35 percent, but the defense was great again, holding the Wildcats to 17 percent.
Robinson had 15 point and six rebounds, Richardson 12 points and three rebounds, Day 11 points and three rebounds, Moran five points, eight rebounds and three steals, Ibanez five points and four rebounds, J. Mekelburg four points and five rebounds, Lungwitz two points, Lauren Gonzales two points, Rayl one point and four rebounds, L. Mekelburg one point and three rebounds, and Nighswonger three rebounds.
“I was proud of how they played Saturday,” Robinson said.