Can Tucson Salpointe Catholic’s boys earn a Division II basketball championship trophy to go with the school’s piece of hardware from football last fall?
We are about to find out.
The Lancers, who finished as state runner-up to Paradise Valley a year ago as the No. 6 seed, come in this time at No. 1.
They and seven other teams earned first-round byes on Feb. 20 and will begin play in the second round on Feb. 22.
Those seven other teams are No. 2 Tempe, No. 3 Flagstaff, No. 4 Vail Cienega, No. 5 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, No. 6 Surprise Shadow Ridge, No. 7 Lake Havasu and No. 8 Phoenix Shadow Mountain.
Leading the way for Salpointe is hard-charging guard Cameron Denson, who was azcentral.com’s Big Schools Player of the Year in football and is headed to his hometown University of Arizona on a football scholarship.
Denson is as complete of a player on the basketball floor as he was in football. He can run the floor, of course, defend, shoot and yes, even throw down a spectacular dunk now and then.
Shadow Mountain dueled with Salpointe for the top seed most of the regular season, but surprisingly fell to No. 8 on the final list.
Shadow Mountain, coached by Jerry Conner and Matadors alumnus and former NBA player Mike Bibby, is loaded with talented underclassmen, most notably Bibby’s son, Michael, a sophomore point guard.
Paradise Valley, which was seeded No. 4 in last year’s tournament, has a tougher road to travel this time around. The Trojans are seeded No. 10 and play host to No. 23 Phoenix Arcadia in the first round on Feb. 20.
Should PV win that contest, it would travel to face No. 7 Lake Havasu on Feb. 22.
Southern Arizona teams comprise a large portion of the bracket.
In addition to Salpointe and Cienega, there are Tucson Sunnyside, Tucson Catalina Foothills, Tucson Canyon del Oro, Tucson Cholla, Tucson Ironwood Ridge, Sierra Vista Buena, Tucson Sahuaro and Tucson Sabino.
After the second round on Feb. 22, the quarterfinals will be held Feb. 26 at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale. Semifinals are Feb. 27 and championship game is March 1, both at Jobing.com.