GLENDALE - Senior Lyndsay Leikem and junior Shalise Fernander combined to score 41 points to lift Flowing Wells past Phoenix South Mountain in the Division II state girls quarterfinals.
With the 49-37 win over the Jaguars at Jobing.com Arena on Tuesday, the No. 6 Caballeros find themselves headed back to the Final Four for the first since the 2007-08 season, the same year they won the 4A-I state title.
"The 2008 was the most competitive team I've ever coached; this team has the best chemistry," said Flowing Wells coach Michael Perkins. "They're willing to fight for each other."
Making back-to-back tournament appearances after a three-year hiatus, the only Southern Arizona girls basketball team left in the postseason has now won 14 consecutive games and 26 of its last 27.
"It feels good to get the recognition as the only team from Tucson left in the tournament," Leikem said. "We've worked hard all season. We deserve it."
Flowing Wells will play No. 2 Chandler Seton Catholic in the state semifnals at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday. The Sentinels (30-4) have won 15 of their last 16 games and eliminated Flowing Wells in the state quarterfinals last season.
With the help of their trademark 1-3-1 full court trap, the Caballeros forced 25 turnovers Tuesday and have now held 10 straight opponents to 40 points or fewer.
"I believe what won us the game was our defense," Fernander said. "When everyone's at the right place, and everyone's on the same page and playing with the same intensity, things click."
Days after upsetting No. 3 Flagstaff by 19 points in the second-round, the No. 14 Jaguars entered the game as the lowest seed remaining in Division II.
Trailing 23-17 at the break, South Mountain's Paloma Anderson gave the Jaguars their first lead since the game's first basket, as part of a 9-0 run to open the second half, before Fernander settled her squad back down with a quick four points.
"I told the girls how critical the first few minutes in the third quarter would be," Perkins said. "We kind of turned backward and we let them go on a huge run and they took the lead."
South Mountain doubled Flowing Wells' output in the third quarter, taking a 31-30 lead into the fourth on a layup from Natashia Barker, the Jaguars leading scorer for the game with 13 points.
That would be the last time the Caballeros would trail. They went on to outscore South Mountain 19-6 in the final quarter.
"The kids have responded all year long," Perkins said. "They get the job done. I love how they responded tonight."
After a three-point third quarter, Leikem exploded for 12 of her 26 points on the night, including a stretch where she outscored South Mountain 10-2 in the first three minutes to help Flowing Wells take a 40-33 lead.
"I just didn't want to lose this game to a team we could beat," Leikem said. "I didn't want to have that regret. I'm a senior so I just left it all out on the floor."
Leikem finished with a double-double and is now averaging 27.5 points per game in the playoffs, after scoring 29 against Phoenix Arcadia in the second round.
"From the day she got here," Perkins said, "she said she'd be willing to put the team on her back."
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