This is the second in a four-part series examining the four boys basketball divisional state tournaments.
Scottsdale Prep has been on top of the Division IV boys basketball world in Arizona for quite a while. Led by a tremendous backcourt of Ben Arqueros and Nick Smith, SPA has scored at least 90 points on five occasions. It once scored 117 points in a game.
But the charter school with the 16-game winning streak hasn’t met the defending state champions yet.
Lurking on the other side of the bracket is Phoenix Arizona Lutheran Academy, which has an even longer winning streak at 18.
Here is my breakdown of the 24-team state tournament, which begins Friday.
BEST FIRST-ROUND GAME:
No.21 Glendale Joy Christian (12-12) vs. No.12 Surprise Arizona Charter (26-5), Friday, 7:30 p.m., at Prescott High
Last year Arizona Charter’s season ended in the state tournament to Joy Christian 80-51. The tables could turn. Only in its third season as a varsity, Arizona Charter won 11 games in a row during one stretch this season. Two of its losses came against Arizona Lutheran and it wasn’t like it was waxed off the floor. Coming off the 60-44 loss to ALA in the sectional final should make this team ready for a Joy Christian squad that lost four of five in the second half of January. But Joy has a decent inside player in 6-foot-5 Tyler Collins, who averages 13.8 points and 9.8 rebounds. Arizona Charter has three players averaging in double figures scoring, led by 5-10 senior guard Christian Rojas at 15.5 points.
Arizona Lutheran vs. No.18 Heber Mogollon-No.15 Tucson Desert Christian winner, Saturday
On the surface, this looks like a rout for Arizona Lutheran and its big, experienced team, led by 6-5 forward Brady Cook. ALA blew out Desert Christian 71-47 on Jan. 10. But since then, Desert Christian beat No.3-seed Pima 52-51. The 68-54 loss to Pima in sectional might appear like a big step back for Desert Christian. But it has shown all year its ability to respond to a loss with an upset. Mogollon is a 15-15 team that managed only 28 points in a loss to Fort Thomas in sectionals. But it lost by only eight to Lakeside Blue Ridge, the top seed in Division III.
Top-seed Scottsdale Prep (24-3) has the manpower and experience to maneuver through a trickier upper bracket where Gila Bend, which lost only four games, likely becomes its first opponent on Saturday. But another rematch against Phoenix Country Day looms in the quarterfinals on Feb. 26. Phoenix Country Day (23-4), led by Nihaal Reddy and Andrew Ekmark, lost twice to Scottsdale Prep, but both times the games went into overtime, including Saturday’s sectional final. Nobody knows much about No. 4 Colorado City El Capitan and No.5 Sells Baboquivari, but they are both able to pull upsets.
No.20 St. Johns (15-14)
It opens on Friday at No.13 Phoenix Veritas Prep (18-5), but don’t be fooled by record. St. Johns got ready for the Division IV playoffs with a diet of quality Division III teams, playing Show Low three times. It beat Eagar Round Valley twice. It also had games against Thatcher, Lakeside Blue Ridge and Holbrook and Whiteriver Alchesay. Veritas Prep has an exceptional point guard in George Heiler, but Show Low is a tough, physical team led by 6-3 junior Levi Udall and 6-0 junior Trevor James. St. Johns could make a run to the final four.
Feb. 27 at Prescott Valley Events Center, 4:15 and 7:45 p.m.
No.2 Arizona Lutheran Academy vs. No. 3 Pima
No.1 Scottsdale Prep vs. No. 5 Sells Baboquivari
Arizona Lutheran 71, Scottsdale Prep 65
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.