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Desert Region: Desert Oasis tops Spring Valley to earn first state bid

Desert Oasis girls basketball coach Laurie Evans-Gygax downplayed her role in her team’s resurgence Tuesday afternoon.

Even after the most significant win in program history.

“If the kids buy in to what you’re selling … and you get kids that believe in what you’re doing, and you believe in them — it’s a unique culture of doing it together,” she said. “It’s exciting.”

And it resulted in the first state tournament berth in program history, too.

The Diamondbacks (20-4) overwhelmed Spring Valley in the third quarter to score a 70-56 victory at Foothill — and berths in the Class 4A state tournament and the Desert Region championship game, in which they’ll meet Bishop Gorman (20-7) at 5 p.m. Thursday.

“We’ve worked so hard. These kids pour their heart and soul into every day for each other,” Evans-Gygax added. “Of course I wanted (to reach state) and it’s always been a goal since I started coaching… But for these kids to be able to experience this, that’s what you want.”

Desert Oasis defeated Spring Valley twice during the regular season en route to the Southwest League championship and demolished Sierra Vista last Thursday to set up the third and final meeting.

Evans-Gygax said she sensed some nerves from the Diamondbacks in the first half, but they still managed a 25-22 halftime lead behind a patient offensive approach and stingy 2-3 zone defense.

“In the beginning we always play pretty nervous, because we (were) nervous,” Desert Oasis forward Desi-Rae Young said. “We’re not a third quarter team. But we just became a third quarter team.”

Evans-Gygax turned to a man-to-man defensive look in the second half, and the Diamondbacks subsequently unlocked their transition offense en route to a 24-12 edge in the third quarter.

The Grizzlies pulled within single figures in the fourth quarter, but Young had a pair of key baskets and Desert Oasis made 17-of-22 free throws to protect its lead. Young and Eliyjah Pricebooks scored 12 apiece to lead the Diamondbacks.

Aaliyah Gayles had 13 points to lead Spring Valley (21-7).

“We won league,” Young said. “And we’re coming to win state.”

Bishop Gorman 56, Liberty 48 — Bishop Gorman girls basketball coach Kevin Nixon was hoping the Gaels would bounce back from a tumultuous 2017-18 season.

They bounced back, alright.

And then some.

The Gaels built an early lead and held off Liberty to score their first state tournament berth since 2015.

“It means a lot to us,” Nixon said. “This is what we (were striving) for at the beginning of the year. We wanted to get to state. With the team we had, we knew we could do it.”

Gorman limped through the 2017-18 season, finishing 12-17 for its first losing record in more than a decade. But the Gaels returned the majority of their rotation and were prepared to make a run toward the state tournament this season.

They finished second in the Southwest League and rolled past Foothill last week to set up a showdown against the Patriots with a state bid on the line.

“We were ready,” Nixon said.

The Gaels used their size and length to disrupt Liberty’s guards in the early-going, and built a 15-10 lead after the first quarter. They never trailed — despite multiple pushes from the Patriots — and held on behind 13 points each from Georgia Ohiaeri and Bentleigh Hoskins.

Starr Walker and Journie Augmon scored 15 apiece to lead Liberty (20-6).

“I always felt comfortable because we had the lead,” Nixon said. “When they made their runs … we made the right plays.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ BySamGordon on Twitter.

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