Lexie Morales, Maylee Thompson

The Willcox Cowgirls hope to be running, like Lexie Morales, left, and Maylee Thompson, when they play in the EAC Holiday Tournament in Thatcher this Thursday through Saturday before returning home to host San Simon on Monday night.

WILLCOX — A fast start in an early season tournament has been countered by a slow start where it counts, in conference play last week for the Willcox Cowgirls basketball varsity.

Willcox won three of four at the pre-season Boyd Baker tournament, finishing tied for third by fattening up on smaller schools. Senior center Tapanga Alexander averaged 12-points per game and senior guard Jordyn Rhinehart 13-points per game in easy victories over Patagonia, St. Augustine and Hayden.

Bisbee stifled Willcox in the semifinals, with a 58-20 victory that saw Rhinehart held to 2 points while Alexander and junior guard Ana Barajas each scored 6. Willcox gave Bisbee a better fight in a rematch during the regular season opener last Thursday, but still fell, 47-28, despite 10 from Rhinehart and 6 from Barajas while Alexander was neutralized by the opponent’s big front court and held to 4 points.

Thatcher gave Willcox more of the same in a 48-23 Eagles win Friday, as Rhinehart and Alexander combined for just 6, while sophomore Kamrielle Wyatt had a team-leading 5 points. Willcox trailed, 21-11, at the half and 30-19 after three before the Lady Eagles pulled away.

“We are struggling with mental errors,” head coach Phillip Steward said. “It’s not so much what the other team is doing, it’s what we are doing to put ourselves in bad situations. Certain parts of the game, we break down mentally, and the other team goes up by 10 or more points.”

Some of their struggles are also reflective of these 2A opponents the Cowgirls didn’t see in the preseason. Both are 2-0 and coming off strong seasons last year when Thatcher won the conference and Bisbee tied for third. The Cowgirls are trying to improve on a sixth-place finish.

“I think we can compete with all the teams we face,” the coach said. “I’m making some changes to our lineup that I think will help us moving forward. The last few games, I have had some young girls step up and really showed me some things. Sophomore Alyssa Rogers will move into the starting lineup and Anna Barajas will also move into the starting lineup.”

They and their teammates will get some extra nonconference work at the Eastern Arizona College annual Holiday Tournament in Thatcher this Thursday through Saturday. The Cowgirls (3-3) open the tourney at 1 p.m. Thursday versus Pima (2-1).

“All and all, I think the girls are more confident this year in the offensive and defensive plays,” Steward said. “I think we need to get back to the basics and just continue to push forward.”

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