Three years ago, the Shadow Mountain boys basketball team was 1-20 and ranked in the cellar of Division II.
This year, the team is 21-2 overall and 10-0 in Section V, and ranked No. 2 in Division II, behind only undefeated Tucson Salpointe Catholic.
Shadow Mountain’s success began when a close-knit and skilled group of freshmen joined the team last winter.
Point guard Michael Bibby and forwards Carlos Johnson, J.J. Ryhmes, Harrison Hillard, and Ben Ashby are all currently sophomores and comprise the Mustangs’ starting lineup.
The group credits the chemistry built from years of playing together on club teams and now in high school, as one of the main pillars of their success.
“We’ve been playing with each other for a long enough period to where we know how we like to play and how we can fit each other around the basket,” Bibby said.
That chemistry helped the five start out their high-school careers with a 24-7 record last year. They finished the regular season ranked No. 5 in Division II, but lost in the second round of the state playoffs to Goodyear Desert Edge.
Their lack of success during the playoffs from last year and the two losses they have suffered this season to Tempe Corona del Sol, the two-time reigning Division I state champion, keep the boys motivated to reach their ultimate goals.
“It (the losses) shows that we can’t just come out and feel like we’re going to beat a team like everyone else that we feel like we can beat,” Bibby said. “We have to come out and play hard every night.”
Now, as the team heads to the playoffs in two weeks, confidence oozes from the five.
“We feel good about it (the playoffs),” Rhymes said. “We feel like there’s nobody in our way and we can get what we got to do.”
Johnson echoed Rhymes’ feelings.
“It gives us confidence going into the sectionals,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, we get the win there and then playoffs. We want to win a state championship.”
The team does not want to stop with only a state championship. With two years left together in high school, the boys have their eyes set much higher.
“I think we can go to nationals,” Rhymes said. “I think we can compete and I think we got the talent do it, to win a national championship in the future.”