ELOY — Despite Florence finishing its Santa Cruz New Year’s Shootout run undefeated, the Gophers were the unfortunate victim of tie breaker rules and missed out on the tournament finals.

Their last game was a gritty three-point win against Phoenix Alhambra, 48-45.

The first half of the Gophers’ final game started out as a back-and-forth affair, going shot for shot with the Lions, as well as both teams making it difficult for the other to score. The tough defense resulted in only Brandon Farley, J.R. Johnson and Brian Madden scoring points for the Gophers.

Florence went into the second half with a slight lead, but that quickly evaporated, as the Lions came into the final half playing an aggressive, smash mouth style of basketball.

The Gophers continued to try to get the ball in the hands of Farley, and the constant looks started to fall for the Gophers’ leading scorer, connecting on three 3-point shots, two of them coming in the final minutes of the game, and two clutch free throws to seal the win for Florence.

“The guys kept looking for me,” Farley said. “I shot decently at the end but I was off for most of the game. A lot of props go to my team for keeping me in there and continuously looking for me.”

Gophers head coach David Silvas said that it was great to have his team come up big in the clutch for the close win. He added that it says a lot about their grit and their determination.

“It was great to see them hit those clutch shots,” Silvas said. “We made one clutch defensive stop at the end. ... We are playing some teams that they are not use to playing, so it was good for us to not only win the game the way we did, but to go 4-0 feels really good and it will boost our confidence.”

Although The Gophers kept the win streak going in pool play, they were unable to make it into the finals, with Tucson Pueblo and Phoenix Cesar Chavez taking the two spots.

Silvas said that it is unfortunate they could not compete for the hardware, but is still very proud of how the team performed in the tournament.

“We kind of had the idea that it would be cool to get a trophy, so it is a little disappointing,” Silvas said. “But the kids are resilient, for me, personally, it doesn’t matter, we just want to get in as many games as we can. For the kids it is kind of a bummer, but we will be alright.”

The Gophers will get a chance to rest up during New Year’s weekend, before hitting the court again for their first game of 2022, playing at home against Tonopah Valley on Jan. 4.


David Church is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. He can be reached at dchurch@pinalcentral.com.

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