The boys basketball final four in Division I will feature two games against teams that have not met this season.
Top-ranked Tempe Corona del Sol (30-1) plays No. 5 Scottsdale Chaparral (26-5) at 7:45 p.m. Saturday, after No.7 Phoenix Desert Vista (25-4) takes on No.3 Mesa Mountain View (23-7) at 6.
Mountain View is playing in the semifinals for the first time since it won it all in 2011, the last year a Division I school other than Corona del Sol won the state championship.
Mountain View has no stars, but it has length that could give Desert Vista a challenge, and coach Gary Ernst has his team playing with precision and poise.
In Wednesday’s 65-45 win over Gilbert, Mountain View forced 16 turnovers, shot 52.4 percent and Luke Shill had seven assists with Tommy Kuhse, David Beecher and Trevor Willis combining for 48 points. Mountain View got Gilbert to shoot 27.3 percent in the second half and held Chris Bowling to three-for-12 shooting.
“That’s about as good as we executed,” Ernst said. “We had a total game.”
Desert Vista had a much easier time putting away Mesa than it did in the second round against Gilbert Perry, which got perhaps the greatest effort ever from All-Arizona sophomore guard Markus Howard.
What coach Shane Burcar did with this Mesa team, to win 25 games, is nothing short of amazing.
But Mesa made a bit of run in the second half, before Desert Vista, led by 6-foot-7 senior Brandon Clarke and his defensive prowess, put Mesa away.
Clarke had 18 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and three steals.
Clarke arguably is the state’s top defensive player.
He anticipates shots so well that it changes the game.
Find a game: High school basketball state tournaments schedule
That will be Mountain View’s task – to get Clarke out of a defensive rhythm and make Desert Vista beat Mountain View from the outside.
Desert Vista made 3 of 4 3-pointers against Gilbert. You can count on more 3s going up against Mountain View greater overall size than Desert Vista.
“Every game it’s a new challenge,” said Ernst, the only high school basketball coach in Arizona preps history to amass more than 800 wins. “We don’t have the athletes they do. We’re just going to have to take care of the ball, play great defense and be patient.”
Tony Darden, in his first year leading Desert Vista, feels a challenge, as well, coaching against a legend.
“I never feel good,” Darden said. “I know how good some of these other coaches are out there. I have got to get these guys prepared.”
2015 high school boys basketball state tournaments:
Carter Aby of Combs defended by Snowflake’s Kurt Wood shoots a layup in the first half of the Division III boys basketball championship game at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015.