Chinle has one of the largest high school gyms in the country, located on the Navajo reservation in northeastern Arizona, where the Wildcat Den is packed for regional tournament games annually in February.
But asked about his team’s student section, Chinle coach Raul Mendoza said, “We don’t have one.”
That’s because it is the expansive communities that fills arenas on the reservation.
In the Valley, high school gyms get cramped, hot and deafening this time of year, as students stand from beginning to end, trying to push their teams, get under the opponent’s skin and be the difference in outcomes. It is never-ending noise that intensifies the action on the basketball court.
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With the playoffs nearing, the student sections are going to get larger and louder.
I did this three years ago. Here is a revival of the student-section rankings in the Valley with the top 10 high school student sections:
No. 1 Phoenix Pinnacle
This group takes great pride in being the biggest, loudest, most intense section in the Valley. They love challenges from opposing schools, who believe they can out-chant them. They’ve embraced a young, entertaining team and having fun with it.
No. 2 Phoenix Shadow Mountain
They have arguably the most dominant team in the state to support. That can be a big responsibility. But The Hecklers have been all out, even on the road. Earlier in the season, they challenged Pinnacle’s Crazies, creating as great of a high school fan atmosphere as you’ll find.
No. 3 Phoenix Brophy Prep
Coach Matt Hooten likes to call it his “Sixth Man.” With more travel in its section this year, the students have to put more miles on. But when it’s going strong, it’s as strong and creative and intimidating as any in the state. “We also have a crowd that celebrates a lot of the team plays that we value—taking a charge, diving on the floor after a loose ball, making an extra pass, getting an offensive rebound. All of that combines to create a great home court advantage for us,” Hooten said.
No. 4 Chandler Basha
Courtside Savages, aka CSS
This was actually started by the school’s baseball team. It has grown the past two years with this being the best team in school history. This green-clad section has tripled in intensity. During rival games, even on the road, their chants can drown out the opposing crowd. They’re spirited without being crass.
No. 5 Tempe Corona del Sol
There was no larger student section during the Aztecs’ run of state titles from 2011-15. It’s still strong with orange-clad students filling bleachers and giving their players an extra push before the playoffs, even on the road with cheers that become deafening.
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No. 6 Scottsdale Desert Mountain
The Wolf Den
When the Wolf Den is packed, it fuels the Wolves, who have as energized a student section as you’ll find in Arizona. It’s a creative bunch, which put on theme nights, such as “Wolf Den of Wall Street,” “Hawaiian,” and “Holiday Sweater” nights. Coaches even join in wearing outfits that fit the theme. “It’s a fun part of the high school sports experience,” coach Chris Satterlie said.
No. 7 Chandler Seton Catholic
The Red Zone
It’s a small gym but it gets packed on one side as students, under a big red banner that reads, “The Red Zone,” really get into it with choreographed moves and colorful outfits.
No. 8 Phoenix Arcadia
The community invests in this student section, from the Chick-fil-A partnership in the Arcadia district, to the halftime challenges. Customized shirts also grace the crowds, and they’re not just for the student section. Shirts for future Arcadia students reach into the middle schools, and overall school spirit, in the community too.
No. 9 Phoenix Horizon
There is a proud alumni base at Horizon, and it has noticed how the Pound still is strong with committed and passionate students, no matter how the teams are doing. This year’s team has been as entertaining as any in the state with scores in the triple digits on several occasions.
No. 10 Avondale Westview
With a 21-2 team, the section has never been bigger and louder, establishing what this year’s seniors are hoping to build – tradition with passion and spirit resonating the halls. “They make us want to play harder,” senior guard Josh Tafoya said. “When we play at home, it’s like they’re on the court with us.”