Defending champion Desert Vista the favorite for Division I girls hoops crown

Defending champion Desert Vista the favorite for Division I girls hoops crown


Defending champion Desert Vista the favorite for Division I girls hoops crown


Last season, Phoenix Desert Vista tripped up in its super sectional, forcing it to take a No. 5 seed into the Division I state girls basketball tournament and opening up the debate as to which team had the inside track for the championship.

This year, there’s no mistaking – it’s Desert Vista’s to lose.

Desert Vista cruised through its 2015 super sectional and enters the state tournament as the top overall seed and the favorite to repeat in Division I, with brackets being released Sunday and the playoffs starting Wednesday for Divisions I-III and Friday for Division IV.

The championships will be played March 2 at Gila River Arena for Divisions I and II, Feb. 28 at Gila River Arena for Division III and Feb. 28 at the Prescott Valley Event Center for Division IV.

RELATED: Girls state basketball tournament brackets

Kristine Anigwe, Desert Vista’s 6-foot-4 senior center, missed her team’s final six regular-season games with an injury but returned for the super sectional and was in prime form, scoring 42 points and grabbing 32 rebounds in DV’s first two wins over Avondale Westview and Gilbert Highland.

Even without Anigwe, Desert Vista has rolled, winning 18 straight heading into the tournament.

Senior guard Sabrina Haines has been the steadying force, averaging 15.7 points and leading the team with 4.2 assists. Desert Vista has also gotten contributions from others like junior guard/forward Toni Davis (11.1 points) and junior guard Tatum Brimley (8.3 points, 3.5 assists), meaning teams can’t focus all of their defensive energy on stopping Haines and Anigwe.

Desert Vista won its super-sectional title with a 69-46 win over Chandler Hamilton, which has been perhaps the most unpredictable team in Division I this season.

Hamilton struggled through an up-and-down year after appearing to be a title contender on paper, then continued its inconsistency in the super-sectional, scoring impressive wins over Gilbert Mesquite and Goodyear Millennium but then getting waxed by Desert Vista, leaving it with the No. 3 seed.

Sixth-seeded Mesa Dobson took a surprising loss in the first round of its super sectional, falling 48-44 to Glendale Ironwood.

Hamilton, Dobson, No. 7 Gilbert Highland and No. 2 Peoria Liberty, the winner of Division I’s other super sectional, all received first-round byes for the state tournament and will do battle in the lower half of the bracket while Desert Vista, Mesquite, Millennium and No. 4 Surprise Valley Vista comprise the top four seeds in the upper half.

Division II

Chandler Seton Catholic and Vail Cienega have been on a collision course to meet again ever since Seton Catholic beat Cienega 37-30 for the 2014 Division II championship.

Cienega hasn’t lost since that meeting, going 29-0 under first-year coach Matt Ruiz and claiming the No. 1 seed in the state tournament.

Seton Catholic resides on the other side of the bracket as the No. 2 seed, setting the stage for a possible rematch in the title game.

Seton Catholic hasn’t lost to a Division II team this season, and there don’t appear to be any significant obstacles for either Seton or Cienega to reach the championship, though No. 3 Phoenix Thunderbird or No. 6 Phoenix Sierra Linda could give Seton some trouble in the semifinals.

Division III

It’s a familiar story, as for the second straight year Chandler Valley Christian plowed through its competition en route to an undefeated regular-season record and the top seed in the tournament.

Last year, however, the train derailed in the championship game, as Fountain Hills spoiled Valley Christian’s perfect season with a stunning 51-36 victory to steal the Division III title.

Valley Christian took advantage of a down Fountain Hills team during this year’s regular season, embarrassing it 79-15, but the real redemption won’t come until coach Scott Timmer and his players are holding the championship trophy that seemed destined to be theirs in 2014.

This year, No. 2 Page could have the best shot at knocking off Valley Christian. Page also was undefeated until a close 50-48 loss to Winslow on Jan. 22.

Division IV

Like Desert Vista and Seton Catholic, Gilbert Christian is in good position to defend its state championship.

Gilbert Christian enters the tournament as the top Division IV seed at 26-3, with its three losses all coming to teams in higher divisions.

In fact, since losing to Valley Christian on Dec. 31, Gilbert Christian has won each of its last 15 games by at least 20 points – and all but one by more than 30.

It hasn’t faced many of the division’s top rural schools, like No. 2 Fort Thomas and No. 3 Sanders Valley, but the trio of sophomore guard Lauryn Satterwhite (15.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.4 assists per game), junior guard Cassidy Curtner (13.1 points) and senior post Meg van Rijn (11.8 points) gives Gilbert Christian the edge against anyone in the field.


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