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7:18 AM Mon, Oct. 22nd

Prescott blanks Bradshaw Mountain, heads to state

Prep Girls Basketball

Prescott’s Erika Smith (8) battles with Hayley Denman (22) as the Badgers hosted cross-town rival Bradshaw Mountain on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

Prescott’s Erika Smith (8) battles with Hayley Denman (22) as the Badgers hosted cross-town rival Bradshaw Mountain on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in Prescott. (Les Stukenberg/Courier)

In the offseason, Prescott girls’ soccer star forward Mikayla Sell was on the fence about whether she should play her fourth and final varsity season in a Badgers uniform in 2017-18. Despite a bad experience in club ball, first-year Prescott coach Paul Campuzano talked Sell out of quitting.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

The senior, who led the Badgers in goals scored this season with 24, notched a hat trick of three goals on Tuesday afternoon that lifted 4A No. 5-ranked Prescott to a 4-0 Grand Canyon region victory over area rival Bradshaw Mountain in the regular-season finale. As a result, the Badgers (11-1 overall, 5-1 Grand Canyon) locked up one of the eight automatic berths into the state tournament, which begins Tuesday, Jan. 30.

Prescott, celebrating Senior Day on Tuesday, will learn its state seeding today. The Badgers reached the 4A semifinals in 2017.

“Three goals, it was just great against our rival – I couldn’t have asked for anything better than a win,” Sell said. “And to do it with all my teammates for the last home game, it was perfect.”

Badgers junior forward Erika Smith, who had an assist Tuesday, said, “It feels so good for us. We’ve worked so hard the entire season. We had to build up to this, and we had to do it for our seniors. It was really good to end on a win.”

Meanwhile, the No. 10 Bears are a lock to qualify for and play host to a state play-in tournament match at 6 p.m. Thursday at Bob Pavlich Field in Prescott Valley. The Nos. 9 through 24th-ranked teams at the end of the regular season are paired up for play-in matches. The eight winners of those play-in matches on Thursday are seeded into the 16-team single-elimination bracket with the Top 8 teams.

“It’s very exciting, because we haven’t made it [to state] in like 18 years,” said Bears halfback Bailey Rozendaal, referencing that the 2001-02 season was the Bradshaw Mountain program’s last state playoff appearance.

Bears coach John Sterling said his girls could finish with a ranking anywhere from 9 through 11.

“We’ll go a light practice [Wednesday], rest a little bit, and hopefully we can come out with some energy on Thursday,” the coach added.

Bears senior forward Serena Pelaez said that on Tuesday “we didn’t go out with that much high of intensity,” in part because Bradshaw Mountain had played its fourth match in eight days, winning three of them.

Rozendaal agreed.

“Right now, we’re pretty exhausted with the schedule we’ve had, so on Thursday we’ll have a new fire to keep going, because this is the first time pretty much anyone’s ever done that [at Bradshaw Mountain],” she added.

Prescott, which won its fourth straight match, led 2-0 at halftime on goals from Sell and Sawyer Magnett, who tallied her 20th goal of the season. In the second half, the Badgers put the match out of reach when Magnett assisted Sell on back-to-back scores in the 41st and 44th minutes.

“If we would’ve came out harder, pressured faster, connected our passes more, then we would’ve had it,” Pelaez added. “It was a mental thing [in the second half]. We kind of started shutting down as soon as they put that one in [early] in the second half.”

The Badgers’ quicker, precision-like passing on the attack was the difference.

“Whenever any team passes, it’s a lot harder to defend them because you’re always chasing – you can’t necessarily stand them up because they’re always passing past you,” Rozendaal said. “Them doing that more in the second half really made it harder to defend. We shut down a little too much in the second half.”

Sterling said his girls “gave up the midfield” and “we just weren’t getting back, and that was allowing them to make the runs.” Campuzano added that over the last two weeks, Prescott has concentrated more on the Sell-to-Magnett connection.

“We played differently prior to that, a little more wide,” he added. “And, today, we focused on getting them together and getting them linked up. They are both amazing players.”

Prescott will play host to a first-round state tournament match at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30. If the Badgers win, they would host a quarterfinal match at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 3. The semifinals and championship are scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 6, and Saturday, Feb. 10, at Williams Field High School in Gilbert.

“We’ve done a really great job of progressing throughout the season – not just sitting in one spot,” Prescott senior goalie Olivia Fletcher said. “We learned from our coach; we listened to what he said. And going out on that win, we played beautifully. We had crisp passes on the ground, even with our field. Everything went perfect, and I’m so excited for state.”

Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at dcook@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.