Clarkdale, Ariz. - The Hopi Junior High School boys basketball team lost the state championship game by one point. Little Singer edged Hopi, 39-38, in the Arizona Small Schools Junior High School championship game Feb. 16 at Jerome-Clarkdale School. The Little Bruins took the lead 38-37 on a jump shot by Allan Gonnie with 1:05 left in the game. But Truman Schultz sank a layup with 12 seconds to go to give Little Singer the victory. Hopi’s Allan Gonnie and Jeremy Adams were selected to the first team all-state team and teammate Jarod Lomayestewa was named to the second team all-state team.
Ricky Molton, who was named the MVP of the tourney, led Little Singer with 22 points in the championship game. Jeremy Adams topped Hopi with 12 points, Jerod Lomayestewa added eight, Shane Cepai, Allan Gonnie and Vincent Timms scored a half dozen points each. Timms and Gonnie scored four points each in the opening period as Hopi grabbed a 12-8 edge. But the Little Bruins went dry in the second stanza as Little Singer outscored them by nine points to grab a 21-16 edge at intermission. Molton fired in eight points during the quarter. Adams and Cepai scored four points each in the third period as Hopi pulled within 31-27. Little Singer led 35-30 with 4:26 left in the game. This is when Hopi made its comeback attempt.
Gonnie and Timms sank layups and Cepai hit a rebound shot as the Little Bruins grabbed the lead 36-35 with 2:25 left. Molton hit a short jumper with 1:17 remaining as Little Singer took back the lead, 37-36. Gonnie then hit his jumper to give Hopi its final edge before Little Singer pulled out the victory. Hopi earned the right to go to the championship game by winning its first three rounds. Adams fired in 26 and Timms added ten as the Little Bruins beat Oak Creek, 55-38, in the opening round. Adams poured in 22 points, Lomayestewa scored a dozen and Timms tossed in ten as Hopi beat Ray, 66-47, in the second round. Timms led the Little Bruins with 21 points, Gonnie fired in 19 and Adams 14 as Hopi disposed of Tis Nas Bis, 61-57, in the semi-final match up. Hopi Junior High Coach Wallace Youvella Jr. said the players had a great time down at state.
“Our goal all year was to make it back to the state tournament, and from there we knew anything could happen,” he said. Coach Youvella said the Little Bruins let the championship game slip through their fingers. “It just came down to who had the ball last,” he said. “Our guys played their hearts out, and I’m proud of every one of them.” Fans were particularly proud of Hopi’s victory against Tis Nas Bis because this team had 6-foot 4-inch Andris Morgan and 6-foot 2-inch Kevin Begay. Morgan finished with 19 points and Begay finished with 14.
“We had some trouble with them because they were so tall, but we boxed them out well and we ran them into the ground. That showed when in their next game they were tired,” he said. “We try to make other teams adjust to us instead of us to them. Our boys take pride in boxing out, rebounding and getting after the ball like they’re supposed to do.” The game against Tis Nas Bis was close until the third quarter when Hopi outscored them by 12 to grab a 42-34 edge. Gonnie poured in nine points and Timms seven during this crucial third quarter. The Little Bruins zoomed to a 56-39 bulge with 3:15 left, but Lomayestewa fouled out and TNB made its comeback. Hopi, however, did not let them come closer than three points.
Coach Youvella said the Hopi offense and defense worked well throughout most of the tournament including against the championship team. “We knew we were going up against a team that’s been together for three or four years, and beat the other teams solidly,” he said. Coach Youvella said he thanks the families, friends and fans who have supported Hopi Junior High boys basketball all year. “They are appreciated by the coaches and the athletes,” he said. The tournament was sponsored by the Yavapai-Apache Tribe, Phoenix Cement Co. and Safeway.