The 4A Conference boys basketball tournament suddenly becomes much more intriguing.
That’s because heavy favorite Phoenix Shadow Mountain has something even bigger to play for.
If Shadow Mountain (23-0) wins the tournament, which begins next Wednesday, there is a good chance it could be one of eight teams in the nation heading to New York for the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School Nationals that will be played March 30-April 1.
The team hasn’t played since last week and won’t have another game until it opens the 16-team 4A tournament on Wednesday at the No.1 seed, possibly against El Mirage Dysart.
Assistant coach Michael Warren, who is dean of attendance at the school, said that Shadow Mountain was contacted by Paragon Marketing, which organizes the event. The Arizona Interscholastic Association and the school signed off on it.
Last year, Chandler Seton Catholic’s girls basketball team participated in a four-team national tournament in New York.
Warren said that Shadow Mountain is among 12 teams in the nation being considered for the eight-team showcase that could include USA TODAY’s No. 1 team, Seattle Nathan Hale. He said he got the impression that Shadow Mountain will likely be going if it wins what would be potentially four more games.
“They said they’d let us know the day after the state championship,” Warren said. “They gave me all indications that if we ran the table, we’d be in. They’d be making travel arrangements that Wednesday. I’ve already had to send them our roster and all of our sizes.”
Shadow Mountain is ranked No.12 in the nation by USA TODAY.
It is considered the biggest national high school tournament with the likes of Oak Hill Academy, La Porte (Ind.) Lumiere and Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy being part of it.
Top players Jaelen House, Marcus Shaver and Jovan Blacksher are excited about the opportunity, but they each said it’s important not to get too carried away and to keep the focus on the first game of the state tournament.
“We just take it game by game, honestly,” House said.
Coach Mike Bibby, who led Shadow Mountain to two state titles in the last three years, wants to make sure the players have a chance to win another state title, before thinking about New York.
“Just keep playing the same way we’ve been playing, play together,” Bibby said. “Let our defense dictate our offense. Just take care of our business here. If the chips fall into place for New York, they fall into place.”