It had been thought before the season that defending Division-II state champion Shadow Mountain High School would have no problems this season returning to win their second consecutive state title. But after losing stud forward Carlos Johnson before the season to a transfer out of state, then losing star junior guard Michael Bibby Jr. to an injury early in the season, 6-foot-4 transfer senior guard Craig Randall would have to fill a major void for the Matadors.
Randall would team up all season with talented junior guard JJ Rhymes to give Shadow a formidable duo. The two gifted college prospects would combine all season to average 42 points between them and lead Shadow to a 23-7 record on the season. While the duo was terrific this season, Shadow Mountain had lost their luster of invincibility - lacking an inside presence.
Gilbert Christian (24-6) is one of the state's premier basketball programs - loaded with division-I basketball talent. Gilbert Christian has been the lone program in the Division-II Class all season long with the talent level to take over the D-II crown, but the school has their own issues with the AIA to overcome first.
On Saturday afternoon, Gilbert Christian put it together, despite a game-high 32 points from Craig Randall. Gilbert Christian would overcome Randall's outburst in his final high school game to defeat Shadow Mountain 87-74 - advancing to the Division-II state finals at Gila River Arena on Monday. Gilbert Christian developed a dynasty of their own in the Division-III Class, so a state championship will be their first in the Division-II Class.
Gilbert Christian went on a 14-4 run late in the third period, and led by 10 points, 62-52, going into the final period.
University of Colorado commit Cameron Satterwhite finished the game with a team-high 21 points, and senior guard Dontez Thomas, who came back from a severe injury last season, had a big game - almost recording a triple-double with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals.
Gilbert Christian will face Arcadia High School in the championship game on Monday. The game will be Arcadia's first ever state title berth. Arcadia (22-9) defeated a well-coached Nogales team on Saturday afternoon, 55-50, at the Gila River Arena.
Arcadia has been led by the play of high-scoring 6-foot-6 senior forward Connor Nichols all season long. Nichols scored a team-high 14 points to lead Arcadia to the win. Arcadia will need a big scoring night from Nichols on Monday to defeat a much more talented Gilbert Christian team.