Girls' Basketball Team

Caption: Rio Rico Girls’ Basketball Team at the MLK Classic at the University of Arizona

The Girls' Basketball team played exceptionally well this year. They hosted a playoff for the first time in RRHS history against Sahuaro High School. 

They had 20 wins and only 7 losses. They were the first team to be ranked in the open division (#16), even being ranked 8th in the 4A conference. 

Coach Frank Arellano explained that this is especially impressive because they do not have a “big pool of players to pick from like other schools.”

They did not win the state championship, but he stated, “I know a lot of teams would trade places with what we did during the season.”

These were some other great accomplishments of the team:

The girls played in the Martin Luther King Classic hosted at the University of Arizona, “putting on a good showing by beating Palo Verde” according to Arellano. 

Natalia Gonzalez, Amber Nerey, Tatianna Arellano, and Addison Hix were named Gila Region Honorable Mention.

 Dianna Hollman was 2nd team All-Region. 

Seniors Debanny Cota and Angelina Whelan were first-team All-Region Selections, with Angelina Whelan being named Offensive Player of the Year in the Gila Region and receiving a scholarship offer from Pima Community College.

With regard to the honor of the scholarship offer, Whelan said it is “exciting and rewarding” because it has “opened a door to the next chapter of my life.”

Several important factors contributed to their success.

They worked very hard; many of them began to practice with drills in March of 2023. 

Arellano stated, “One of the toughest things to do as an athlete is to practice hard when no one is watching, and the girls did it.”

John Fanning also praised the girls’ work ethic and leadership throughout the season: “This happened because of the hard work that the girls put in, not only during the season but in the off-season as well.  There was also some pretty terrific senior leadership throughout the year, which was just one part of the ingredients that led to the success of the team.”

They stayed focused on their goals.

Arellano stated, “I told the girls it’s a long season and things happen. Things did happen but the girls did not let negative or positive influences detract them from their vision.” 

Another key to their success is the amazing camaraderie that is evident on the court, which 

some of the girls began developing in elementary school and middle school, even playing with the RRHS seniors during the summer. 

As Cota aptly put it, “Our friendship explodes on the court!”

Cota explained the result of this bond: “We had a lot of ups and downs, but we were just always there for each other, which made it easier to go out there and play even if we were mentally and physically drained.”

Nerey stated,  “We had a really good season. We grew as a team a lot from the beginning to the end, and we enjoyed seeing everyone grow.”

Whelan stated, “We called ourselves a family because that 's what we were, the great season started when we trusted each other and believed a successful season was possible.”

Fanning praised the coaches–Arellano, Alexia Cano, and Denise Valenzuela–but stated, “For a team to win 20 games throughout a season, there has to be more than good coaching. There has to be a special bond between players that allows them to truly play as a cohesive unit . . . a true team.”

He went on to thank the seniors wish them luck and offer encouragement to those who will play next year: “For those ladies who will continue to play for the program, the sky is the limit, if, and only if, you put in the work.  Work hard, have a great attitude, get it done in the classroom, make good decisions, and you will also taste success.”