Five takeaways, thoughts, interesting games as we head into the first round of the state basketball tournament:
Love, love, love the fact that the Arizona Interscholastic Association is using smaller venues for both the quarterfinal matchups and, in most cases, the state championship games. Playing title games at Grand Canyon University rather than Gila River Arena will make for a much better atmosphere. And it’s about time the AIA got away from playing the 6A quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Arena. The crowds there, especially for the early games, were dreadful and made for a dead building.
Four times is a charm
When the bracket was released Sunday the boys coaches at Chandler Hamilton (No. 11 seed) and Phoenix Brophy Prep (No. 6) had to look at their first-round game and think, “Again?”
The two teams met three times in the regular season, Brophy winning two of the match-ups. But those two wins were by a combined 11 points. Hamilton won its game by two points. Expect another close contest if for no other reason than the two teams know each other so well.
Chandler (No. 13) had to win a play-in game just to move on to face Laveen Cesar Chavez (No. 4) but don’t count the Wolves out in this first-round match-up. Chandler has won four straight and six of its last seven games. Cesar Chavez, meanwhile, hasn’t lost since Dec. 8 and that was by one point to No. 1 seed Tempe Corona del Sol.
Chavez should win but don’t be surprised if the game is more competitive than the seeds indicate.
Clash of styles
Perhaps the most interesting game in the 6A boys bracket, at least from a stylistic perspective, is Mesa Mountain View (No. 12) traveling to face Phoenix Pinnacle (No. 5). Gary Ernst’s Mountain View teams like to play a methodical half-court game, and the Toros will have to slow it down to have any chance against Pinnacle and sensational freshman Nico Mannion.
Pinnacle beat Mountain View by 15 points in mid-January but Ernst always gets his teams to play their best come the playoffs. The question is, can Mountain View do enough offensively to stay in the game?
Is Chandler Seton Catholic vulnerable?
Karen Self’s Seton girls team was the overwhelming favorite in 4A when the season began and has done little to dissuade that notion, going 25-3 with two of those losses coming against out-of-state teams. But its lone in-state loss came against Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, which is the No. 1 seed by virtue of that 54-41 win in January.
One caveat from that game: Seton’s best player, Sarah Barcello, did not play because of a concussion.
If Seton is healthy it should win its third state title in four years but at least Cactus Shadows will play with a confidence Seton’s foes haven’t in past years. Should make for an interesting championship game (assuming there’s not a colossal upset along the way).
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