This is the third in a four-part series breaking down the boys basketball divisional state tournaments.
Phoenix Shadow Mountain lost All-Arizona point guard Michael Bibby the first half of the season to a knee injury. But the Matadors have come on strong with Ohio transplant Craig Randall running the point. Everybody else has been chasing. But Gilbert Christian could throw a wrench into the Matadors’ repeat plans.
Here’s a breakdown of the Division II state tournament, which begins Thursday.
BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME:
No. 24 Tempe McClintock (18-8) at No.9 Tucson Sunnyside (23-5), 7 p.m., Thursday
Sunnyside might be the most dangerous team in Tucson, but it slipped at sectionals, forcing it to take a difficult passage to the final four. McClintock might be the most dangerous No.24 seed in any of the four state tournaments. With guard Amiri Chukwuemeka averaging 24.5 points, McClintock is capable of pulling the upset. His last shot beat Tempe just a couple of weeks ago. McClintock has finally hit its stride and had a week off to get ready for this with no sectional.
No. 18 Tucson (20-9) at No.15 Sierra Vista Buena (18-6), 7 p.m., Thursday
Buena’s last game was more than 10 days ago against Tucson, a 61-58 win in which Rod Springer had a huge game. Springer and company have been waiting. Little did they know, however, that Tucson’s loss to Tucson Cholla in the sectional final would land it a spot in a Thursday game against Buena, a well-coached team that has had ample time to prepare. But Tucson had two more games to get ready for the Fighting Colts and sharpen their game.
The upper bracket is murderers row with not only No.1 Shadow Mountain, but No.4 Gilbert Christian and No. 8 Paradise Valley. And Scottsdale Saguaro, a No.12 seed, can make a run with Byron Murphy leading the offense. Tucson Sahuaro also sits in the upper bracket at No.13. A Shadow Mountain-Gilbert Christian semifinal will have a state championship feel.
No. 14 Tempe (19-8)
Everybody is trying to figure out what happened to Tempe late in the season. It lost in the same week to McClintock and Gilbert Campo Verde, a team that didn’t even qualify for state. Just speed bumps during a hard, grinding season? Or red flags? Tempe is well-coached. Tom Saltzstein won’t let his team run into any more walls. But Phoenix Moon Valley won’t be an easy opener. It might be the most improved team in the state since last year. And it has size. Tempe will have to get guard Delano Jones and power forward Emanuel Gant going to make a deep run. But it has to find ways to finish. It gave up a 12-point lead in the final quarter in the sectional final loss to Gilbert Christian.
Feb. 28 at Gila River Arena, 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
No. 14 Tempe vs. No. 2 Tucson Cholla
No. 1 Shadow Mountain vs. No. 4 Gilbert Christian
Shadow Mountain 69, Tempe 61
Photos: Arizona’s best high school boys basketball programs
The 2014-15 Arizona high school boys basketball season is here. Take a look back at the schools that have won titles in the sport in Arizona since 1985, listed in order of championships.