East Valley and southern Arizona boys and girls basketball teams expecting to be good were just that last week as the 2013-2014 season commenced and football finished.
Here's a quick recap of some of the bigger tournaments and starts by teams in the East Valley and Tucson, girls first.
Getting plenty of love as the top team in girls basketball in Division I prior to last week was Desert Vista. The Thunder didn't disappoint in sweeping five games and the title of the 16-team Lady Padres Tip Off Classic at Marcos de Niza.
Led by the trip of guards Erin Wolph and transfer Sabrina Haines plus post Kristine Anigwe, the Lady Thunder won each game it played by 20 points or more. Wolph, Haines and Angiwe are averaging in double figures for the first week and doing well rebounding (Anigwe) and playmaking (Wolph and Haines). The top teams at the Lady Padres Classic were Desert Vista, Millennium (the runner-up), Marcos de Niza and Pinnacle. Pinnacle is rebuilding after a runner-up finish in D-I to St. Mary's last year.
A stronger field overall converged at the Highland Thanksgiving Tournament played at Highland and Mesquite high schools with 18 schools competing. Dobson emerged as the champ with a 6-0 mark, knocking off host Highland (39-31) in the final. The Lady Mustangs were the last team other than St. Mary's to win a D-I title. Dobson has one of the deepest teams in Division I and got a strong week from three veteran players — guards Miyah Leith, Tori Lloyd and Dyesha Stahley. The Lady Mustangs were the last team other than St. Mary's to win a D-I title. Seems like a decade ago that happened when in fact it was 2010. The year before that Highland prevailed in D-I. Highland won five of its six games. Other teams showing promise were Seton (5-1), Mountain Pointe (4-2), Mesquite (4-2) and Westview (4-2). As for gutted by graduation and abandoned St. Mary's, the Lady Knights were 0-5 in the tournament. Kudos to former Tempe Prep standout Liberty Brittain for taking on the head coaching job in light of a difficult situation.
Seton is the lone D-II team of that bunch, but look for the Lady Sentinels to be right near the top in their division with Julia Barcello and Heather Heild back. Add some length with freshmen sisters LeeAnn and Jennifer Wirth to the mix (strong Seton basketball bloodlines) and Karen Self's team will be solid come playoff time if not sooner. Seton's only loss was to Mesquite.
In the big-school version of the Boyd Baker Tournament (girls), D-II Sahuaro was a perfect 6-0. The Lady Cougars nipped Canyon del Oro, 55–53, in the final. Sahuaro was 23-5 last year and returns three starters from that team. The Lady Cougars, led by sophomore forward Sydney Harden, look to contend in D-II and advance further than the first round at state this time.
A couple of Chandler schools came up victors in three boys tournaments and a third placed third in the other. Hamilton won the Fear the Hop Tournament at Mesa High with four impressive wins. The Huskies upended Mesa High in the semis and drilled Red Mountain in the final. They did that without their top returning player — James Sosinski — who was still playing football on Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium. Sosinski high-tailed it out of UPS and made it to Mesa High to play in the title game and scored five points. Hamilton got plenty of balance in virtually every phase, particularly scoring and rebounding. Five players have averaged between eight and 12 points a game thus far — Zach Evans, Dylan McCall, Anthony Withers, Marc Garcia and Luke McCook. .
At Paradise Valley's annual tournament, a 16-team affair, Perry and new coach Joe Babinski swept four foes, beating another EV team off to a good start — Desert Ridge — in the final. Perry's highly-touted freshman point guard Markus Howard had a nice debut for the Pumas averaging 23 points a game He tallied 40 in the semifinals. Perry is 4-0.
In Tucson at the Salpointe Tipoff Classic, Catalina Foothills prevented Desert Vista from equaling its girls' start with a 70-40 drubbing of the Thunder in the championship game. Catalina Foothills returned seven players from last year including three starters — Austin Nehls, Chaz Mack and Dakota Korsiemon. Nehls and Mack averaged nearly 20 points a game last year and Kordsiemon almost 10. Nehls and Mack combined for 35 points in beating Desert Vista. Catalina Foothills was 29-4 last year and is one of the top contenders for the D-II title this season.
Desert Vista was 4-1 in the tourney and topped Salpointe in the semis. Salpointe likely will improve from a 3-2 start with the addition of Cameron Denson and Jaylyn Juan in the coming weeks. They were busy the first week playing football and winning a state title for the Lancers. Denson and Juan combined to average 22 points a game last year. Chandler High, with new coach Mark Nold at the helm, took down Salpointe in the third-place game and finished 3-2.
In the first portion of the Hoophall West tournament (pool play) played at Corona del Sol and Desert Mountain high schools, two-time defending champ Corona began 3-0 with wins over Mesquite, Westview and a tight win over Chaparral. Shadow Mountain topped the other half of the pool, going 3-0 with victories over Desert Mountain, Gilbert and Millennium. Gilbert was 2-1 and Chaparral 2-1. The tournament concludes Friday Dec. 13 and Saturday Dec. 14 at Grand Canyon University. On Dec. 13 Westview plays Millennium in the the 7th-place game at 4 p.m. with the 5th-place game between Mesquite and Desert Mountain at 8:30 p.m. On Dec. 14 Gilbert clashes with Chaparral for third place at 2 p.m. Corona del Sol and Shadow Mountain meet at 8 p.m. for the championship.
Mesquite suffered a blow with the loss of last year's leading scorer and senior Zach Green in the opening game with Corona. Green suffered a broken leg and best-case scenario has him returning for postseason should the Wildcats get there, according to coach Dustin Cooper.
The Corona del Sol-Shadow Mountain matchup has a strange twist to it. Shadow Mountain coach Jerry Conner has returned to coach this year. Conner was the Matadors' coach in 1996 when it won the big-school title and defeated Corona del Sol in the title game. The Matadors star player that season was Mike Bibby, now an assistant coach and with son, Mike Bibby Jr., playing for Shadow. Corona del Sol was coached in 1996 by Sam Duane Sr. Sam Duane Sr.'s son, Sammy Jr., is now Corona's head coach with back-to-back state titles in his resume.
Mesquite suffered a blow to its season with the loss of leading scorerand senior Zach Green in the opening game with Corona. Green suffered a broken leg and best-case scenario has him returning for postseason should the Wildcats get there, according to coach Dustin Cooper.