By: Richard Obert, azcentral sports | March 1, 2017
Imagine if Arizona had an open division in girls basketball.
Who knows if 5A champion Gilbert Mesquite gets even with 4A champ Chandler Seton Catholic in the final? And what about 6A champion Surprise Valley Vista? It lost by seven early in the season to Mesquite and never got a chance to face Seton in the regular season.
Without an open division, one way to determine the best is to take a subjective look at the ten best girls basketball teams of the 2016-17 season.
No. 1 Seton Catholic (29-3)
Seton’s only loss to an Arizona team came on Jan. 21, a 54-41 setback to Cave Creek Cactus Shadows. Seton didn’t have its best player, junior guard Sarah Barcello, for that game because of a concussion. She was back to face Cactus Shadows in that 4A final, and the difference was dramatic. Seton won 61-27, hammering home the point that this is not only the best teams this year but one of the best in state history. It was the ninth state championship for coach Karen Self.
No. 2 Mesquite (31-1)
This 5A powerhouse outscored its 32 opponents by an average score of 80-35. Its only loss came against Seton, 50-37, on Nov. 26. And this team still is a year away from being at its best. There wasn’t a senior on the roster, and it will return the nucleus of guards Shaylee Gonzales and Lindsey Vanallen and post player Lauren Gustin.
No. 3 Valley Vista (25-6)
Last year’s season ended with a 51-46 loss to Chandler Hamilton in the 6A final. Valley Vista got it right this time, beating rival Goodyear Millennium 44-36 for the Monsoon’s first state championship. It played Mesquite tougher than anyone, outside of Seton. Junior point guard Taylor Chavez had another big season, averaging 21 points and four steals.
No. 4 Millennium (24-8)
The Tigers’ only losses to Arizona schools came against Hamilton once and Valley Vista twice. The two Valley Vista games in the past three weeks were decided by six and eight points. No stars, but sophomore Dominique Phillips came on strong late in the season, giving Millennium hope to contend for titles the next two years.
No. 5 Scottsdale Chaparral (26-5)
The Firebirds were in the 5A semifinals for a half against Mesquite, before getting outscored 25-7 in the third quarter of their 72-49 loss. Coach Brian Porth did a great job with a young team, led by juniors Maddie Vick (21 points a game) and Summer Menke (11.6 points and 9.3 rebounds). Junior Brenna Doyle (8.2 rebounds a game) also will be back to make Chaparral even stronger next year.
No. 6 Phoenix Sierra Linda (27-3)
Two of its losses were to Mesquite. The other was against Chaparral. The Bulldogs will miss point guard Jenay Bojorquez and her six assists a game next season but leading scorer Janae Gonzales returns after leading them this year in scoring with 17 points a game.
No. 7 Cactus Shadows (26-5)
The Falcons lost in the 4A final to Seton Catholic for the second year in a row, this time by a score of 61-27. Seton was poised to make amends for the January loss to Cactus Shadows. The blowout loss doesn’t diminish the great season they had with junior Caitlin Bickle a driving force, averaging 16 points and seven rebounds.
No. 8 Phoenix Mountain Pointe (23-10)
This team made an incredible run to reach the 6A semifinals, knocking off No. 7 Phoenix Xavier 51-47 and No. 2 and defending state champion Hamilton 60-56. Magic ran out in the 35-30 semifinal loss to Valley Vista. Credit coach Justin Hager for getting these girls to come together when it mattered most.
No. 9 Gilbert (26-3)
The Tigers garnered the No. 1 seed in the 6A tournament, and rode the Cavinder sisters – seniors Brandi and sophomore twins Hanna and Haley – to the semifinals, before losing to Millennium 52-47, a game in which all three Cavinder girls fouled out.
No. 10 Chandler Valley Christian (26-3)
Great senior leadership and production from Megan Timmer (16.7 points, 5.9 rebounds) and Bethany Wolph (17.1 points, 87 made 3-pointers) led the Trojans to the 3A championship, pulling out a 41-40 win over Page in the final game.
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert