There are two teams who are projected to push their way into the 4A State Championship, which is Seton Catholic and Sahuaro. Despite the two favorites, there will still be some good games being played in the 4A Quarterfinals. Here is a breakdown of each match-up . . .
The top of the bracket features #1 seeded Seton Catholic hosting #9 seed Coconino. The Lady Sentinels sport one of the deepest rosters in the state. They are led by Player of the Year candidate Amanda Barcello (BYU Commit). Barcello has impressive size and the skillset to play all five positions on the floor. Her play is complimented by guards Lexi McNabb and Sasha Daniel. Coach Karen Self has done an amazing job and is a proven winner. She knows how to put her players in the best situation to win, night in and night out.
Coconino is arguably one of the top programs in the 4A Grand Canyon Region. They have endured as much success as their rival school Flagstaff. They are led by Kiana Manuelito and Wynter Huskie, who have combined for 25.9 points per/game. Coconino historically produces scrappy and great backcourts over the years. In this match-up, I think Seton Catholic’s depth, size, skill and athleticism will overwhelm the Lady Panthers of Coconino.
The next matchup in the bracket is between #4 seed Mesquite and #5 seed Notre Dame Prep. Coach Candice Gonzales has done a phenomenal job with her program over the years by creating a winning culture and producing college prospects. The Lady Wildcats are led by Alaya Fitzgerald, Hattie Ogden, and Priscila Varela. If Mesquite’s "Big 3" can have a monstrous game, the Wildcats can prevail against an up-and-coming Notre Dame Prep team.
Notre Dame Prep has weapons of it's own in Alivia Pautz and Charlotte Kelmon. Notre Dame is well-coached by Coach Dell Mims and his staff. Ultimately, the game will be down to two things: quality possessions and defensive stops. Notre Dame Prep has played Seton Catholic very closely and Mesquite has been beaten twice. I expect Notre Dame Prep to use their length and athleticism to slow down Mesquite’s scoring attack.
The other side of the bracket is also going to be great to keep an eye on. The first match-up will be the #6 seeded Flagstaff Lady Eagles against the #3 seed Sahuaro Lady Cougars. Coach Tyrone Johnson has led his Lady Eagles to a 17-2 record this season. He is an excellent motivator and X’s and O’s guy. His Lady Eagles have a nice scrappy backcourt in Sage Begay and Gracelyn Nez. Historically, Flagstaff has produced solid backcourts just like their rival Coconino. The Lady Eagles are going to need a huge game out of Begay and Nez to try to cage top prospect Alyssa Brown (pictured).
Sahuaro’s Brown is one of the best girl's basketball players to play this decade. She has had a decorated career and is nearing the 2nd spot as the state’s High School All-Time leading scorer. She currently is averaging 31.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 3.9 steals and 1.9 blocks per/game. I think Sahuaro’s senior core of Brown, Alyssa Franke, and Lily Watson leave it all on the court, as this is their last dance in the AIA playoffs.
The last match-up will be between the Lady Skyhawks of Deer Valley and the Lady Lancers of Salpointe Catholic. Deer Valley has had a tremendous year - bringing in a 15-2 overall record. They are led by a young core of players in Rickelle Andrade, Izzy Majarucon, Mirella Funari, Michaela Lee, and Nadya Gutierrez. Despite their youth (freshmen and sophomores) these girls are very talented and play well together.
You can’t count out Salpointe Catholic, because they have a solid team and competed well all season. They only dropped one region game to Sahuaro, but avenged the loss on March 4th with a 61-31 blowout win. They are led by Jaya Nelson, Kylee Calahan, and Tessa Hastings. I think Salpointe has the talent, athleticism and experience to beat Deer Valley.
My prediction will be a Seton Catholic-Mesquite and Sahuaro-Salpointe Catholic Final Four. All of these quarterfinal games will be tough and I think the favorite to advance to the ship is Seton Catholic. You can’t count any of those other teams out, since all these teams have talent to make some noise and possibly surprise us all.
I wish all these teams good luck in the quarterfinals.