It is a real treat for the state of Arizona to have high school playoffs in the month of March. The Canyon Athletic Association (CAA) and The Grind Session concluded their seasons last week. This week starts the last of High School Playoffs for the Grand Canyon State. Here is a look at the breakdowns of the big school tournament brackets.
The Favorite: Valley Vista - Coach Rachel Matakas has done a phenomenal job in building a dominant program with her Lady Monsoon. Although they are missing key player Jennah Isai, the Lady Monsoon are getting key contributions from Marisa Davis, Madison Magee, Mikela Cooper, and Alanis Delgado. Coach Matakas has her team playing well as of late, and they are looking to bring another state title home to Valley Vista.
The Bracket Buster: Mesa - Coach Katie Fonseca is making a strong case for Coach of the Year talks. She completely turned her program around from a doormat to a contender. She has her Lady Jackrabbits playing on fire as of late. They finished the season with huge wins against Dobson and Westwood. The Lady Jackrabbits are led by their one-two punch in Ashiian Hunter and Mackenzie Shivers. Shivers is playing on fire and seems to have been putting up strong performances, after their game against Seton Catholic where she scored her 1000th career point.
The Dark Horse: Xavier Prep - Riding a 7-game win streak into the state tournament is the Lady Gators of Xavier Prep. A definite team to make some big noise in the 6A State Tournament. This team will be fun to watch over their next few years, as they have a strong young core of sophomores and freshmen leading the charge (Sarah Miller, Mia Davis, Dominique Nesland, Sienna Cherwinski). Coach Jennifer Gillom always does a fantastic job with her program, as she is a skilled X’s and O’s technician and an excellent motivator.
Juggernaut: Hamilton - The Lady Huskies are riding a 10-game win streak with key wins over Seton Catholic, Mesa, Desert Ridge, and Xavier. They are playing very well and have the athleticism and depth to hurt opponents in many ways - led by their one-two punch in Amyah Reaves and Graciela Roybal. Reaves and Roybal combine to average nearly 25 points a game, but the Lady Huskies have other pieces to add to the stat line.
It looks very interesting since there are a lot of talented teams in 6A. In my opinion, favorite and juggernaut Valley Vista and Hamilton have tough road enroute to meet in the championship game. Hamilton should beat Cibola handily, however they may face Perry in the 2nd round, who gave them their only loss of the season. If Hamilton gets to the semi-finals it will be against Dobson or Westwood. Dobson and Westwood have solid scrappy guard play, so that side of the bracket will be entertaining to watch.
Valley Vista should make it to the championship. However there are some obstacles for the Lady Monsoon. Xavier Prep should take care of Tucson, and Mesa should beat Pinnacle handily, which will result in a Xavier Prep-Mesa quarterfinal match-up. My prediction is Mesa sneaks past Xavier to meet Valley Vista in the semi finals.
My Prediction: Valley Vista and Hamilton meet in the state championship with Hamilton squeaking out a win by 4 points.
The Favorite: Casteel - Coach Daniel Trageser has my nomination for Coach of the Year. He has led his Lady Colts to a 16-0 regular season record. The Lady Colts are the only undefeated team of the “Big Schools” (4A-6A). The Lady Colts have an uptempo system that can put up points quickly. Their defense creates a ton of high percentage opportunities. If teams are going to slow down the Lady Colts they must slow down their core of Daeja Johnson, Autymn Franks, and Camilla Norton.
The Bracket Buster: Williams Field - This team can make some noise in the playoffs. An underrated team with a lot of talent. If they can stay healthy opposing teams need to plan accordingly. Tatyanna Clayburne, Trinity Flores, and Alana West can cause match-up nightmares.
The Dark Horse: Millennium - Coach Kevin Thomas is doing a fantastic job with his Lady Tigers. His Lady Tigers are bringing in a 4 game win streak and are very competitive. Elli Guiney, Kassidy Dixon, and Mia Amundsen are their version of the big 3 which can put up numbers to fill the stat line. I think teams shouldn’t sleep on the Lady Tigers, as they have been playing well to end the season.
My Prediction: I think Casteel should blast their way into the state championship game. I don’t think anyone can match up to the depth, skillset and athleticism. It should be a Verrado and Millennium matchup in the semifinals, with Millennium edging the Lady Vipers of Verrado by 3 points. Casteel wins the state championship over Millennium by 10 points.
The Favorite: Seton Catholic - Coach Karen Self has set the standard for leading a program. Her Lady Sentinels are one of the most dominant girls basketball programs on the West Coast. I don’t see any team matching up with the Lady Sentinels. Seton Catholic is loaded with mid-major and high-major talent. The Lady Sentinels are led by BYU-Commit Amanda Barcello, Lexi McNabb, and Sasha Daniel (pictured). Their "Big 3" can hurt opposing teams in multiple ways, as they can defend, rebound and score from multiple ranges.
The Bracket Buster: Flagstaff - Coach Tyrone Johnson has his Lady Eagles playing very well, as they bring in a 16-2 record to the playoffs. Coach Johnson is one of the best motivators in the state and gets the most out of his personnel. Gracelyn Nez and Sage Begay are the team’s one-two punch who can put up numbers to propel their team to new heights.
The Dark Horse: Sahuaro - Led by one of the state’s best lady basketball players to ever play, Alyssa Brown is leading her Lady Cougars into the playoffs with something to prove. The senior has put up 31.1 points, 9 rebounds, 3.8 steals, 1.9 blocks and 2 assists per/game. Being this is her and teammates Alyssa Franke and Lilly Watson’s final dance in the state tournament. You can’t count them out!
My Prediction: I think Seton Catholic handles their business on their side of the bracket propelling their way into the final. Sahuaro and Salpointe Catholic meet in the semi-final, with Alyssa Brown being the X-Factor for Sahuaro in leading her Lady Cougars to the State Championship Game. Seton Catholic showing their depth should win the state title over Sahuaro by 5 points.