Martin Appel coached girls basketball at Red Mountain for 20 years until a difficult ending to the season.
He resigned earlier in the week after the team’s season ended in the first round of the 6A playoffs. The No. 8 Mountain Lions lost to No. 9 Tucson with just seven players dressed out for the game.
Appel wouldn’t go into specifics as to why the roster was depleted after the loss to the Badgers, only to say, “We had all kinds of things going on.”
A total of four girls – three varsity and one junior varsity player – left the team in the final weeks of the season, including contributing players juniors Jacquelyn Ries, who was suspended, and Samantha Shoemake.
It was an abrupt end to not only a successful season (20-7) as undefeated East Valley Region champions, but to a career that spanned two decades.
“To be honest that was one of our best games of the season,” senior Heavyn Jordan said. “With all the drama gone, we played so well together- we were just physically exhausted since we had no breaks. We fought till the end and I’m proud of the team.”
Appel, who received support on social media from coaches from other programs, had been there so long that the mother (Meisha Lasley) of this year’s top scorer – Amaya West – was on his first team at Red Mountain.
It doesn’t appear that Appel is done coaching as he moves on from his era with Red Mountain.
“I still love coaching and am open to possibly going somewhere else,” he said via email on Friday. “The reason I left Red Mountain is because I need a change. Twently-plus years at one place is a long time. I am looking forward to wherever life takes me next and am looking for new opportunities.”
One caveat is the fact that his daughter, Kailey, was a varsity player this year as a freshman. She is one of several players who were expected back next season along with freshman Mya Johnson, Ries and Shoemake to keep the Mountain Lions as region favorites.
If Kailey stays and the players who quit return to the team the new coach will have a good nucleus returning next season.
“It was very hard because I truly enjoyed coaching my daughter,” he said. “We have a great relationship and this has been hard for her, but she is a very mature young lady and is handling this very admirably. As a parent I am extremely proud of her.
“Depending on what opportunities may present themselves in the future, I hope that I am able to still coach her. If nothing else, I will continue to help her grow as a person and a basketball player.”
– Jason P. Skoda is a senior writer for MyNewsMesa.com. Send Mesa-based story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.