State championship in view for Desert Vista girls basketball team

State championship in view for Desert Vista girls basketball team


State championship in view for Desert Vista girls basketball team


They’re the three best players on the best girls basketball team in the state. Their skill sets are the definition of complementary — one leads the team in scoring, another in assists and the third in rebounding.

They are Emily Wolph, Sabrina Haines and Kristine Anigwe, and they’re the biggest reasons Phoenix Desert Vista was 20-1 entering Thursday and the favorite to claim the Division I championship on March 1 at Arena.

When Desert Vista is on its game — which is most nights — the chemistry between the three is palpable, causing matchup nightmares for any opponent saddled with the task of stopping them.

“It makes other teams frustrated,” coach J’ontar Coleman said. “You can’t just focus on one individual. You got to focus on all three of them as a collective unit. You can’t just focus on Emily, because if you focus on Emily, we got Sabrina. If you focus on Sabrina, we got Kristine.

“So there’s a lot of options you have to focus on.”

It’s Arizona high school basketball’s Big 3.

The linchpin

Wolph is Desert Vista’s backbone, the senior leader who also happens to be the team’s leading scorer. The 5-foot-7 guard averages 16.9 points on a highly efficient line — 59 percent from the field, 82 percent from the free-throw line and 51 percent from 3-point range, where she has made a team-high 39 of her 76 attempts.

“Emily is the quiet assassin,” Coleman said. “You might see her with three points, and the next thing you know she’s got 20. She knows how to find the open shot, she knows when to take the big shot and she knows when to just create and be a basketball player.”

The Santa Clara-bound Wolph also knows when to speak up. Never the loudest player on the floor, she lets her play do most of the talking but has a knack for bringing out the best in her teammates.

“I’ve been on varsity for four years,” Wolph said, “so you learn from that. This is my first year as captain, and we needed someone to step up. We needed someone to keep us focused, and I think that’s what I do best.”

The sparkplug

Haines is a fiery force, the perfect balance to Wolph’s more subdued style of play. The 5-foot-10 junior wing transferred from Mesa Mountain View in the off-season and has provided 9.1 points, a team-leading 2.0 assists and an endless supply of energy.

“Off the court, she’s a big teddy bear,” Wolph said of Haines. “You can talk to her about anything. But on the court, she’s an animal. Once you step in those lines, don’t mess with her. She’s feisty.”

She also possesses Desert Vista’s most varied skill set, feeling comfortable with or without the ball, inside or outside, on offense or defense.

“Sabrina is the all-around player,” Coleman said. “She can dribble, she can rebound, she can shoot. She’s very versatile. She is the piece that we needed.”

The anchor

Anigwe is Desert Vista’s inside presence, a 6-foot-4 post for whom few teams have an answer. The junior leads the team with 6.6 rebounds per game and is second behind Wolph with 14.4 points, possessing a litany of low-post moves and the touch to expand her game out to the perimeter.

“She has so many ways to get to the basket,” Coleman said. “She can make a one-step power move or a step-back jump shot, or take you out on the dribble and make a two-dribble cut to the basket. How do you defend a 6-4 post player with those types of moves?”

Added Haines: “I can just throw it into the post, and I know she’ll do something great with it.”

The mission

They all know what the ultimate goal is. Desert Vista is aiming for its first state championship in girls basketball, and its players don’t shy away from talking about the impact such an accomplishment would have on the program.

“You can’t just not think about it,” Anigwe said. “It would be a life changer.”

Desert Vista will no doubt need contributions from the other members of its roster — Coleman at times has run a rotation that goes 10 or 11 deep.

But it’s no secret that for Desert Vista to realize its big dreams, it will need to rely on its Big 3.


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