The exciting Hoophall West basketball tournament took place on Saturday in fine fashion. With the first two games on the day showcasing blowout victories by out-of-state national powers over top-rated Arizona opposition, the evening's final match-up of the event proved the be the best game of the year - featuring nationally ranked opponents, Arizona's top program Corona Del Sol and one of the nation's top teams, Sierra Canyon High School (CA).
It was a night where Arizona's top two available prospects, while being very young in age and class, proved just how big time they are and will be. Super 6-foot-10 freshman post Marvin Bagley Jr. and electric sophomore point guard Alex Barcello (pictured) put on a show on Saturday evening in their narrow, one-point loss to Sierra Canyon, 65-64.
First of all, the tournament was a tremendous success and had a big-time feel over the course of two days, ESPN televised two of the top games on Friday and scouts and media filled the building throughout the 2-day event. As a result, the rims in the Chaparral gymnasium took a beating over the course of two days from the superb talent that filled the team's in the event. The tournament was also first class all the way around - providing real-time game stats for the scouts/media throughout each game and a hospitality area.
With national power Findlay Prep (NV) first blowing past Arizona's Pinnacle HS, 72-48, and then nationally ranked Dematha Catholic (MD), one of the nation's premier basketball programs over the past 40 pears, routed Shadow Mountain - 94-58, the stage was set for Bagley and Barcello to lead Corona in the best match-up of the event.
The game featured a packed house as fans from in state and out-of-state piled into the gymnasium at Chaparral High School. Immediately in the game, just a few trips down the floor after the tip, Marvin Bagley would prove why he is considered the best Arizona high school prospect ever - throwing down a ridiculous two-handed reverse alley oop dunk. The crowd would ignite, going crazy after the highlight reel finish.
Bagley would not see a lot of the basketball in the game's first half, but every time he got it, he looked to score and did. What is most impressive was that he was being defended by one of the nation's premier post players in the 2017 class - 6-foot-8, 240-pound sophomore post Cody Riley. Riley is a large, physical post prospect with superior toughness and work ethic. Riley also possesses an excellent overall offensive skillset and a feathery, left-handed shooting stroke. Bagley looked to take it to Riley all night and the two elite prospects battled for the entire game in exciting fashion. Bagley would finish with 10 points after the first half.
In the game's first half, Alex Barcello would take over the game for Corona, as he scored a team-high 15 points on some nice penetrating drives and several perimeter jump shots. Barcello would be on another level with his play in the game - creating confusion in the comparison between him and Perry's Markus Howard (Arizona State commit). Barcello has proven to be just as good a player and prospect as Markus Howard as of late.
Sierra Canyon though, playing some of the best team basketball I have seen in years, would capture a 37-29 first half lead.
In the second half, Barcello would continue his strong play and, with the help of Bagley, Corona would take the lead midway through the second half. Corona would take the lead late after a nice mid-range jumper from Bagley from the wing over Riley, giving the Aztecs a one-point margin, but Sierra Canyon would eventually take the lead back on a Cody Riley inside basket.
With :45 seconds left to play in the game, Corona 6-foot-6 senior forward Dane Kuiper (University of New Mexico signee) would emerge. After missing in action offensively for much of the game, Kuiper would make the game's biggest shot for the Aztecs - knocking down an open three-pointer from the wing and giving Corona a 64-62 lead.
With the game looking to be in hand for Corona, Cody Riley would travel the length of the floor and convert a layup over the outstretched hands of Bagley for the win.
While Sierra Canyon would ultimately walk away with the hard-fought victory, the Corona Del Sol team would make Arizona fans proud - having nothing to hang their hands for. While it really hurt the Corona Del Sol faithful to lose their first game of the season, and probably their only loss this season (similar to last season), look for the Aztecs to tear apart their Arizona opposition the remainder of the year.