Where is the parity?
Some recent girls basketball scores have been eye popping:
Last week, at San Tan Foothills, in a 2A Conference game, Gilbert Leading Edge Academy posted a rare shut out, 72-0, against a team that has won two games.
That same night, 5A power Gilbert Mesquite defeated host Casa Grande Vista Grande 102-11.
That was the third time this season Mesquite hit 100 points in a game. It also beat Tucson Flowing Wells 100-24 and Queen Creek 105-31. It trounced Peoria Centennial 86-22.
“Those are no fun for anyone,” said Leading Edge coach Erik Gray, whose team is in its first year competing in the Arizona Interscholastic Association after years of dominating the Canyon Athletic Association.
Before the season, Mesquite coach Candice Gonzales expressed concern about being put in 5A where she knew the competition wouldn’t be strong enough to challenge her loaded squad. Despite having mostly underclassmen, she knew she had a team that could contend for a state championship at the highest level in 6A against the likes of Chandler Hamilton and Surprise Valley Vista.
Mesquite (20-1) lost its only game to Chandler Seton Catholic, 50-37, and Seton plays in division even lower than Mesquite, in 4A, where there should be no mystery there who wins it all. Seton is ranked 15th nationally by CBS MaxPreps and is No.1 in the azcentral sports Super 10, which includes all conferences.
Gonzales knew Vista Grande was undermanned.
Mesquite’s big three of Shayla Gonzales, Lindsey Vanallen and Lauren Gustin, all juniors, combined for 72 points in the game.
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“They do not have enough for a freshman team,” Gonzales said in an email. “They had a total of 16 girls in their whole program, so half of them dressed JV and the other varsity.
“We pressed maybe the first two to three minutes of the game and finished with 40 (points) at the end of the first (quarter). No pressing and two to three passes only, jumping back and forth from man to zone and we finished with 67 at the half. We could have probably had 100 points at halftime and I’m not joking.
“The third quarter, I let the girls towards the end finally run some fast breaks but it was mostly transition plays, getting the ball to the corner, swinging it around the horn, five passes and then you can score. We finished with 82 only scoring 15 points in the third and that was not letting my girls really play. As we finished the 3rd quarter with a little fast breaking, I let them continue it into the fourth quarter.
“With just minutes off the clock, we already were well into the 90s so it was again slow it down, no fast-breaking, five to six passes. Everyone scored. Everyone played, even the one JV player I brought up played and scored. They are just not very good. It is so frustrating to think we have to play them one more time.
“It’s not even really a game. It’s a lot of slow it down, pass around. Not fun for either team but that is the way our entire region is. … We could be scoring 130s to 160s on these teams. But when you are one of the best teams in the state and the AIA doesn’t care where they put us, this is what you get. I can’t even imagine what next year will be like with my whole team back, one year older and stronger.”
Coaches from Vista Grande (4-13) and San Tan Foothills did not respond to messages.
Gray said his Leading Edge team moved the ball most of the last three quarters in the 72-0 win.
“They had many opportunities for sure (to score),” he said. “Definitely were not pressing. We were in a 2-3 (zone) all second half.”
Seton coach Karen Self, who last year led the school to an eighth state championship, has seen her team flirt with 100 points this year but she said she won’t let her teams score 100 points unless it has to in order to win the game.
“I allowed it once and it felt wrong to me,” she said. “In the end, we are dealing with kids and I think that 100 points is a threshold number that somehow has a more powerful impact. I’ve been on both sides of the blowout and this is just how I feel. Not many agree with me.
“At Seton, we have specific rule of engagement that we use against our opponents. We allow our girls to press and trap until we are up by 20 to 25 points. After that, we pull off our press and traps. This is not true for all teams. Some choose to press the entire game, which I do not agree with.
“We will not allow fast breaks in the second half if we are up by 40 or more. Forty is also pretty much my threshold for dropping into a zone. We play an extended 3-2 zone so it looks a lot like man, but it’s all I teach. If the game is really our of hand, I have instituted a number of passes, five to eight, before a shot can be taken. In these games, everybody plays, a lot.”
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Self said she has seen a lack of balance among teams, making it difficult for coaches to find balance between being compassionate and needing starters to have reps together to keep continuity and conditioning as the playoffs approach.
“Some of these games are basically a day off and if you have three of those in a week, you have lost some conditioning for your players,” Self said.
She believes open enrollment has led to such disparity.
“A law that passed in order to solve academic problems has led to parents shopping their athletes to the best programs,” Self said. “Or worse yet, club coaches funnel kids to a specific program. This means schools who aren’t among the best will forever find it difficult to build their program. Sports are a privilege, not a right. If you want to open enroll, feel free, but you shouldn’t be eligible for sports.
“But that will never pass, so we have to rely on coaches to control scores.”
Suggest human interest stories to Richard Obert at email@example.com or 602-316-8827. Follow him at azc_obert.