There were little to no surprises for the 1st round of the 6A state playoffs. The only upset was #10 seed Rincon beating #7 seed Highland, 40 to 33. The Lady Rangers have been flying under the radar in this unique pandemic season. They finished with an 11-3 record, mainly playing Southern Arizona Schools, and with their only (2) out of the area games in Pinnacle and Maricopa (which they lost to Pinnacle and beat Maricopa).
With the win, Rincon will now face #2 seeded Valley Vista. I don’t think the Lady Rangers will be able to weather the storm from the Lady Monsoon. Coach Rachel Matakas and her Lady Monsoon are riding an 11-game win streak, where they have been blowing out their competition. I expect Valley Vista’s Fantastic Four (Marisa Davis, Madison Magee, Mikela Cooper, and Alanis Delgado) will be too much for the Rangers to contain. The Fantastic Four have combined for 48 points, 21.2 rebounds and 9.6 steals per/game.
The next game in the Elite 8 is between #3 Xavier hosting #6 Mesa. This is an intriguing match-up, where I think either team can win out. Coach Katie Fonseca has been coaching with a lot of fire this season, which ignited her team to a 7-game win streak thus far. If Xavier is going to contain the fire they would need to slow down Mackenzie Shivers and Ashiian Hunter. The Lady Gators have been playing very well lately, as well as they bring in an 8-game win streak of their own.
Coach Jennifer Gillom is one of the best motivators and X’s and O’s tactician in the state. They are led by a young three-headed monster in Sarah Miller, Mia Davis and Dominique Nesland. Those young ladies are only freshmen and sophomores, which paves a bright future for the Lady Gators. This game is a tossup and I think Valley Vista will have their hands full in the Final-Four Round.
The other side of the bracket is not a cake walk. Westwood and Dobson (pictured) will slug it out in Round 3. Westwood won the first meeting, 38 to 33, on February 2nd, where Dobson got the TKO by winning big, 52 to 22, on March 4th. Coach Ron Campton has the scrappiest backcourt in the state in guards Mya Johnson, Nyese Jones, and Nikkiana Kinsel. Coach Henry Bribiescas has a "Big 3" of his own in Rachel Early, Ahdiayh Chee, and Jaden Leslie. In this match-up, the team who controls the tempo and has the best possessions wins the game. It is a toss up, because Westwood is a scrappy, hard-nosed team who can disrupt any team's offensive rhythm. Dobson’s key to beating the Lady Warriors is controlling the tempo. Early does a fantastic job in controlling the tempo of the game, and is complimented by the play of Chee and Leslie.
The last matchup is also very interesting between #1 seeded Hamilton and #8 seeded Perry. The Lady Pumas are the only team to beat the Lady Huskies, which happened on February 5th. In that game, the Lady Pumas defense only allowed the Lady Huskies to shoot 24% from the field. Perry’s Nicole Smith and Halena Hill had a huge game, which led to the 56 to 46 victory. The Lady Huskies have since woken up from that loss, winning (11) games in a row, most by large margins. They are led by Amyah Reaves, Graciela Roybal and Amari Burnette. I think the Lady Huskies will beat the Lady Pumas, since it seems like they have that (11) game win-streak momentum riding into the quarterfinals.
This bracket has the most parity in the state, where any of these teams can beat each other on any given night. I am still holding true to my predictions. In the next round, I think it will be Hamilton-Dobson and Mesa-Valley Vista in the Final Four. Good luck to all these teams on Friday.
In the 5A Division, there were no surprises in the first round in this bracket. All the teams I predicted to win got it done last night. There are (4) games left and (8) teams looking to sneak into the Final Four. Here are my thoughts on each match-up . . .
The top of the bracket has #1 seeded Casteel against #8 seed Gilbert. Coach Dan Trageser has his Lady Colts playing very well, as they have this season’s state’s longest winning streak at (17) games. The Lady Colts are deep and execute an impressive defensive strategy, where they cause havoc with their pressure and trapping ability. The havoc continues by forcing turnovers, where the Lady Colts are quick to turn those turnovers into high-percentage scoring opportunities.
The Lady Tigers of Gilbert are having a great season under new coach Colton Walker. The Lady Tigers have won 8 of their last 10 games. In order for the Lady Tigers to squeak past the Lady Colts, top underclassmen prospects Meisha Caserio, Nicole Evenson, and Morgan Evenson need to have big games.
Casteel holds the edge in this match-up, since they are so deep and athletic. Casteel has two main scorers in Daeja Johnson and Autymn Franks, however add (5) more players who can score 6 points or more. Besides their offensive firepower, their defense is one of the best I have seen in many years.
The next match-up on the top side of the bracket is between #5 Flowing Wells and #4 Cactus Shadows. Cactus Shadows has won 9 of their last 10, where Flowing Wells won 8 of their last 10. The Lady Falcons have had a stronger schedule this season, led by Ella Schott who has been averaging 13.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.2 blocks/game.
The Lady Caballeros have a "Big 3" scoring monster in Milinda Arguellez, Leamsi Acuna and Navine Mallon. All three players have been averaging double-digits in scoring this season. I think Cactus Shadows holds the edge in this match-up, since they are battle tested in their strength of schedule.
The bottom side of the bracket has #6 seed Williams Field and #3 seed Millennium, and also #2 seed Verrado and #7 seed Sunrise Mountain. The bottom side of the bracket is loaded with solid ball clubs. I think there is a lot of parity on the bottom end, which will be a dogfight to the Final Four. Each team could beat each other on any given night.
I like the match-up between Williams Field and Millennium. Millennium is a solid program every year. They are led by their triple-threat in Elli Guiney, Kassidy Dixon and Mia Amundsen. Williams Field has weapons of their own and match up pretty well. Their weapons are guards Tatyanna Clayburne and Trinity Flores, with a solid contribution night in and night out from forward Alana West. Both squads have solid guard play, however I think the X-Factor will be the match-up in the paint between Alana West and Kayda Pierce. If Pierce can hold West to less than a double-double, and with strong performances from Guiney, Dixon and Amundsen, Millennium should edge out Williams Field.
Verrado and Sunrise Mountain will be a Battle of the Westside. The Lady Vipers of Verrado have been playing extremely well and sport a 16-1 record. Their lone loss of the season came at the hands of Millennium, but since then they went on a 15-game win streak. They are led by Kaisha Henry, Isabella Barrett and Amaya Felix. Coach Vernon Beard has done a phenomenal job developing his program over the years.
Sunrise Mountain brings an impressive resume as well, with a 16-3 record. The Lady Mustangs have been playing very well especially with strong contributions from Mackenzie Nielsen, Julie Diveney, Reena Bhakta and Kelci Connolly. This game is a toss-up as well, as both teams haven’t faced each other, but share a common opponent in Millennium. Sunrise Mountain defeated Millennium on February 19th (56-48), and Verrado split their series with Millennium - losing the first time on January 22nd (33-40) and winning the 2nd match-up on February 9th (31-28).
The 5A Bracket has a lot of parity as well. My prediction for the Final Four will be Casteel-Cactus Shadows and Millennium-Sunrise Mountain match-ups. I think Casteel will press their way into the Championship game, with Millennium and Sunrise Mountain duking it out in overtime to get to the ship. I can’t wait for these match-ups to take place in a few days.
Good luck to all teams still gunning for a spot in the Final Four.