By Cuyler Meade
Seton Catholic looked outplayed for much of the first three quarters of Monday’s Division II state championship game, but proved why they hadn’t lost to an Arizona team, holding on and outlasting Cactus Shadows to win a tough battle 49-40 and be crowned champions.
Seton Catholic, who lost in last season’s final, learned quickly that a 30-1 record doesn’t mean anything in a title game, getting outpaced by Cactus Shadows early and heading into the half down three points.
“I told them we were being soft and we were being weak with the ball, and not matching their level of intensity,” Seton Catholic coach Karen Self told Sports360AZ.com after the game. “And this is the state championship and if there’s ever a time that you want to bring a strong aspect to your game, this would be the day.”
The champion Sentinels were led by the towering Wirth twins, LeAnne and Jenn, and by sophomore and leading scorer Sarah Barcello. The three combined for 39 of the team’s 49 points and 22 of their 28 rebounds.
The two-seed Falcons were led throughout the season by sophomore Caitlin Bickle, who dominated down low with three blocks in the first half to go with six points but had to sit for much of the second period with foul trouble, and would eventually foul out.
With Bickle off the court, Seton Catholic held a sizeable length advantage, but early on it looked like they might end up regretting failing to capitalize on the size differential. Though the Wirth twins remained on the court throughout most of Bickle’s absence, the Sentinels weren’t able to leverage the advantage in the first half.
Cactus Shadows got out to a strong start in the second half, but Seton Catholic showed what it took to beat all Arizona comers this season, running ahead to a three-point lead with 13 seconds to go in the period. The Falcons scored in the final second to cut the lead to one, but Seton Catholic would dominate the fourth quarter.
Seton Catholic managed to flip the script from last season’s title game loss, coming out victorious where they had failed one year earlier. Self said she didn’t have any flashbacks from last year’s game.
“Not one,” Self said. “Different game, different team.”