Things are looking sunny for Sunnyside’s burgeoning girls basketball program

Sunnyside girls basketball Coach Justin Delgado is 27-17 in his third year leading the program (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The Sunnyside girls basketball team’s progression under third-year Coach Justin Delgado has included these developments:

— Year-round basketball influence with tournament play and Camps (including their own) in the summer.

— Commitment from the Sunnyside Unified School District to enhance the gym facility (including a new court). The gym has more of a glowing, livelier atmosphere with also a new ceiling with bright lighting.

— More district-area eighth-graders and their families buying into the program rather than attending Tucson High, Salpointe Catholic or another school outside the district boundaries.

— A two-day in-season tournament — the First Annual Inferno Invitational — is taking place at Sunnyside this week. Play started Tuesday with the eight-team field and the Champion will be crowned Wednesday.

SLIDESHOW OF MICA MOUNTAIN-SUNNYSIDE PROVIDED BY ALLSPORTSTUCSON.COM’S ANDY MORALES:

“It’s been great; I feel a lot more comfortable here than my first year,” said Delgado, who came to Sunnyside from coaching the Baboquivari boys team to the 1A state semifinals. “Program-wise, I had a clue of what I wanted to do on the basketball side of things… but I was still learning as the new head coach.

“Now I think I’ve gotten the ball rolling to incorporate more stuff than just basketball and that’s what we try to tell our kids — we’re more than just basketball. Teaching life lessons through basketball is super important to us.”

Delgado’s oldest daughters — Twins Gabi and Lexie — are senior captains on the team, which has started 2-0 with a 52-47 win over Mica Mountain Tuesday night in the opening round of the Inferno Invitational.

Junior forward Nayeli Nidez-Acuña, one of the top players in Southern Arizona, has the opportunity to earn 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career after starting at the varsity level as a freshman and sophomore. She entered the season with 435 points and 402 rebounds in her career.

“I love the program,” Nidez-Acuña said. “Obviously, I came with the new coaching staff my freshman year. I’m happy I can continue with it through my senior year.”

Hosting their own tournament instead of traveling somewhere else in the state is “so much better,” Nidez-Acuña added.

“It’s so much easier,” she said. “It’s stress-free. You’re at your own home court, feeling the advantage. You’re over here training on your teammates. It feels really nice to be on your own court.”

Sunnyside is 27-17 in the three seasons under Delgado, who has his father, Pete Delgado, as one of his assistants. Pete is the head football Coach at Baboquivari who keeps stats during Sunnyside’s games and Mentors the players.

The Blue Devils came back from an 11-point deficit Tuesday night to beat Mica Mountain. They beat Coolidge 57-38 in pool play earlier in the day and the team will play Snowflake in the semifinal round Wednesday at 1 pm

Mica Mountain was limited to seven points in the third quarter but a 3-pointer from Isabella Webb put the team up 43-35 with 2:33 left in the quarter.

The Blue Devils scored the last five points to cut the lead down to 43-40.

Nidez-Acuña saw limited action in the first half due to a shoulder injury, but the junior made two free throws with 4:56 left in the game to tie the score up 44-44.

Webb made a free throw and Kayda Lewis scored to put Mica Mountain up 47-44 with 4:05 left in the game but the Thunderbolts were unable to score the rest of the way.

Gabi Delgado cut the lead down to 47-46 and then Desiree Lopez hit two free throws to put the Blue Devils up for the first time since 6:44 in the second quarter at 48-47 with 2:33 left.

Gabi Delgado scored again and Lexi Delgado closed the scoring with two free throws with 38 seconds left for the 52-47 win.

Webb, sister of former Cienega standout football players Thomas and Isaiah Webb, led Mica Mountain with 15 points. McKenna Mathieu added 14.

Gabi Delgado led Sunnyside with 12 points, Felix had 10, Lopez added 7 and Lexi Delgado and Tatiana Vega (Sunnyside’s ace pitcher on the softball team) scored six each.

The Championship game is set for 6:20 pm Wednesday night.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, Writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an Educator five years ago and is currently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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