Mat'tanaya Vital scores 1,000 career points for Amphitheater

January 24, 2022 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365

Mat'tanaya Vital (Andy Morales/AZPreps365)

Amphitheater guard Mat'tanaya Vital claimed a spot in the 1,000-point club three games into the current season and the Panther program honored her Monday night at home at the half of a 59-10 victory over Palo Verde.

Vital has over 1,300 career points at this point but the win over Palo Verde has its own importance with the program tying to scratch its way into a playoff spot. There are two ways into the 4A state playoffs and the team has a possible a shot at both but the region title might be out of reach due to a technicality. Amphitheater started the night ranked No. 32 and there are five games remaining on the schedule. If the Panthers can get into the top 24 then a spot in the play-in tournament is possible.

The 4A Conference also rewards the eight region champions with a berth to at least the play-in tournament scheduled for Feb. 11. The Panthers are 2-2 in the 4A Gila Region but Douglas is 2-0. There’s also another roadblock with Mica Mountain being 2-1 with no more region games scheduled. A team must play 10 a minimum of ten games to qualify for the state playoffs but there are no minimums to win a region.

At any rate, Amphitheater improved to 15-8 overall and 6-7 in power-ranking games. This is proving to be one of the best seasons for Amphitheater since Catherria Turner and Star Landergren transferred from Canyon del Oro to Amphitheater in 1998. That duo helped lead the Panthers to the first region title in program history that season and the team made it to the second round of the state playoffs, falling to defending state champion Mesa Mountain View 77-34.

Current Amphitheater head coach Tom Danehy was the freshman coach that year and his daughter, Darlene, was a member of that championship squad. Danehy considers Turner to be the best player he has had a hand in and seen play along with his former Green Fields standouts Jessi Barnes and Oliva Snyder and his former Immaculate Heart standout Emily Haynes.

“I had those players but Mat’tanaya is something,” Danehy said. “The thing that’s great is she’s delightful. She’s smart and funny. The young kids look up to her and she’s helpful. She’s just a great kid.”

Vital scored a game-high 22 points to lead the Panthers past Palo Verde. Freshman Kiara Waters had 13, senior Knowledge Smith finished with 12 and sophomore Teriza Sengal had 6. Palo Verde fell to 2-6 in ranking games and freshman Paige White led the Titans with 9 points, all on three-pointers.

Palo Verde hosts Empire (3-4) Tuesday night and Amphitheater is hosting No. 15 Sahuarita (8-4). The Panthers beat the Mustangs 65-63 on Jan. 13.