Bella Hamel

Bella Hamel squares off against a Sahuaro High School player during Tuesday’s 51-46 defeat at home. Anderson scored 13 points.

Despite a well contested game, Tuesday’s clash between Ironwood Ridge and Sahuaro hinged on a series of late game miscues.

Those errors by the Nighthawks (9-2) allowed the visiting Cougars to leave Oro Valley with their 10th consecutive win, beating Ironwood Ridge, 51-46.

The Cougars (10-0) led for much of the night, up 28-27 at the half, before entering the game’s final quarter tied at 36.

The two sides scrapped throughout the final eight-minute stanza before the Cougars put the game away with a three-pointer, before scoring four points off two Nighthawk turnovers.

Ironwood Ridge coach Ken Leikem remained upbeat after his team’s tough-luck loss, praising the effort of players like guards Bella Hamel and Leah Anderson, who scored 13 points apiece in the game.

“I thought they did great tonight,” Leikem said. “And it's just a continual learning process, and we continue to get better.”

Anderson, who paced the Nighthawks early, with 11 points in the game’s first half, said the team’s effort against Sahuaro speaks to their camaraderie on the court this season.

“We almost had them,” Anderson said. “We just, at the end, got a little frazzled by time. But we were right in there the entire time. We didn't stop fighting.”

Hamel, who scored seven points in the second half for the Nighthawks on Tuesday, believes the squad needs to refocus their effort in the weeks to come.

 “We just need no days off during our break,” Hamel said. “Keep on working and keep going strong on the court. Just got to keep grinding. We work hard on practice, and it's obviously been showing in our games lately. Even this one, even though we lost, we were pushing hard the entire time, so we've just got to keep going for it.”

Elsewhere around northwest Tucson on Tuesday night, a series of local games wrapped up, including Immaculate Heart beating Bisbee, 41-32, to improve to 5-4 this season.

Canyon del Oro fell to Cholla, 46-38, falling to 1-4 for the season; while Marana and Catalina Foothills lost to Maricopa and Sabino respectively, 47-29 and 81-26.

Read more about Ironwood Ridge’s contest against Sahuaro, and the rest of their week, in next week’s edition of The Explorer and Marana News.

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