Corona del Sol boys basketball won't be experiencing much of a dropoff come this winter after the solid exhibition performance it put forth Friday night at the 4th annual Primetime Summer Invitational at Tempe High.
Coach Sammy Duane Jr. saw a trio of key seniors graduate — led by three-time state champ Casey Benson, Connor McDougall and Jarrett Givens. But with Dane Kuiper ready for his senior season and second with the Aztecs along with sophomore Alex Barcello and senior Cassius Peat there is top-notch game experience on the floor.
Duane. is expecting an uptick in offense from Kuiper and Barcello.
“They'll be our go-to guys now,” Duane said. “They'll be asked to do more. I think that's going to be good for them and us.”
In an exhibition matchup with Desert Vista that kicked off the action at Tempe High on Friday, Duane split his squad in half and played each set one half. Corona topped Desert Vista, 79-64. The first-half bunch netted 40 points and the second-half group tallied 39.
The first-half bunch included Barcello, who has shown he's capable of being Benson-like. Barcello, the freshman that made an impact last year, was teamedwith another freshman primed to make his mark this year starting in the post — Marvin Bagley III. Barcello tallied 13 points and Bagley 12 in the first half. Bagley, who is 6-foot-9, plays like a seasoned varsity player already. It's scary how good he may be come his senior year in 2017-2018. He's already viewed as one of the top players in the country for his age and position.
The second half of the exhibition saw Kuiper and Peat teamed up with that unit. Kuiper was more active from the perimeter than he was last year and scored eight points. Peat was strong on the boards as usual and quite agile with inside moves. Corona won the game more via rebounding and transition.
The Aztecs are likely to trot out a starting five of Kuiper, Barcello, Bagley, Peat and Tyrell Henderson. Henderson has patiently waited his turn and was the eighth or ninth man used last year by Duane. Duane has Isiah Bolden ticketed for his sixth man. The battle is on for a couple more spots off the bench.
BRACKET-PLAY RESULTS FROM FRIDAY: Top-seed Corona wasn't quite as sharp in its bracket game with No. 8 Sunnyslope, escaping a tight game in the final even minutes for a 55-48 victory. Corona had its hands full trying to stop, even slow Sunnyslope guard Sammy Barnes-Thompkins. Barnes-Thompkins scored 36 o Sunnyslopes 48 points. Barcello and Kuiper scored 11 each for Corona and Bagley added nine in a balanced attack.
Corona faces No. 5 Pinnacle in one semifinal on Saturday (11 a.m.) at Tempe High. Pinnacle topped No. 4 Gilbert, 38-27. Saturday's other winner's bracket semi at 11 a.m. pits Shadow Mountain against Chaparral. No. 3 Shadow Mountain beat No. 6 Desert Vista, 44-39 and No. 2 Chaparral edged No. 7 Tempe High, 78-72.
The winner's bracket semifinal winners meet at 1 p.m. for the championship. The loser's bracket semis are set for 10 a.m. with Sunnyslope taking on Gilbert and Desert Vista facing Tempe. The 10 a.m. winners and losers meet at noon for their last of three bracket games.