One semifinal is set in Division II, and it is the game most have been waiting for – No. 1-ranked (by azcentral sports) Phoenix Shadow Mountain against No. 2 Gilbert Christian.
Saturday’s 1:15 game at Gila River Arena in Glendale is full of drama, and not all of it has come on the basketball court.
Live updates: High school boys and girls basketball state tournaments
Some of it came in a court room, where Gilbert Christian (26-3) won back its big men, 6-foot-9 junior Mitchell Lightfoot and 6-7 junior Tony Licovoli, who won court injunctions against the Arizona Interscholastic Association. The AIA had ruled them ineligible after transferring from schools, citing the prior-contact rule in its bylaws.
Shadow Mountain wasn’t able to win a hardship appeal for junior guard Bryce Fisher, who transferred from Gilbert Perry because of the prior-contact rule. Fisher’s parents didn’t pursue litigation against the AIA.
Here is my breakdown with prediction of the Division II boys basketball game of the year:
Shadow Mountain (26-3) vs. Gilbert Christian (26-3)
These are the two hottest teams in Division II with Gilbert Christian winning its last 16 as Lightfoot and Licovoli were added to coach Kurt Keener’s lineup. Shadow Mountain’s biggest player is 6-8 Issiah Jones, a junior transfer from Texas, who is averaging nine points and 8.5 rebounds. He is surrounded by athletes, led by guards Craig Randall and J.J. Rhymes. The Double Rs are as lethal a twosome that you’ll find in the state. Rhymes averages 21 points and Randall 20 a game. Randall, who moved in from Ohio, is one of the best pure shooters in the state with unlimited range. When he gets in a zone, it’s over. Shadow Mountain will run away with it. Gilbert Christian has a talented guard in junior Cameron Satterwhite, who is averaging 17.9 points and five rebounds. But Lightfoot, a New Mexico commit, makes this team go. He averaged 18.7 points and 9.8 rebounds in 17 games. This game will be won in the paint. Shadow Mountain is relentless going to the basket, but Gilbert Christian has to guard the 3-point line because of Randall. Both teams played Division I powerhouse and No. 9 nationally ranked Tempe Corona del Sol. Shadow Mountain played Corona del Sol much tougher. But Gilbert Christian didn’t have Lightfoot when it lost to Corona del Sol 75-53. If it is able to have its way inside, Gilbert Christian makes this a last-possession game. Shadow Mountain, well-coached by Mike Bibby, is tough in close games and will figure a way to pull out this classic showdown.
Prediction: Shadow Mountain 71, Gilbert Christian 68
Photos: 2015 high school boys basketball state tournament
Desert Vista’s David Powell embraces Quincy Taylor (5) after a win against Mesa Mountain View in a Division I semifinal game at GCU Arena in Phoenix, AZ on February 28, 2015.