The MLK Classic took place in a big way across the state of Arizona on Monday at several different locations.
With basketball being played at Wells Fargo Arena, Grand Canyon University and also the University of Arizona for this year's event, and at the same time, a serious congratulations and thanks goes out to Event Organizers, Marc Beasley and Dr. Steve Hogan for their brilliant work and dedication to Arizona high school basketball.
While sitting and watching games on Monday, I was amazed at the thought of just how much work went into such an event. Think of how many supporters, staff, phone calls and hours of preparation for such an organized event. While many of us were thankful for having a day off from our daily grind, the supporters of this year's MLK Classic were on the grind.
I can't thank Beasley and Hogan enough for their commitment to Arizona basketball. While many of us talk the talk, these two individuals definitely walk the walk with their many terrific events throughout the year.
With so much basketball action taking place on the day, Arizona Preps was on hand for Wells Fargo's segment of the event, as girls and boy's basketball took place on the day.
Chandler HS (14-4) girls have been on fire as of late. After winning the Black Division championship of this year's Nike Tournament of Champions, the Wolves have continued to roll. Recently, Chandler lost a narrow defeat at home to #1 ranked St. Mary's HS (68-62), but since has won their last four games in a row - including a nice 73-59 win over a good Dobson HS team in this year's MLK Classic, behind a team-high 30 points from talented senior guard Simone Westbrook (University of Arizona signee).
Westbrook is as talented a player as there is in the state. She missed an earlier meeting between Chandler and Dobson due to disciplinary action - a game that Dobson won. Chandler has been without the services of their star 6-foot-3 junior post Je Zhe Newton, who has been out while recovering from knee surgery this summer.
#1 nationally ranked St. Mary's HS (16-0) girls seem to be unstoppable this season, as they have cruised past any and every opponent this high school season. After winning the top division crown at this year's Nike Tournament of Champions and receiving a #1 national ranking by ESPN and the USA Today, the Knights have continued to roll.
Monday they would face another nationally ranked opponent - #5 ranked Windward HS (16-3) from California, only to have their way with Windward as well - winning the game 62-48 and never trailing. After building a double-digit first quarter lead, the Knights would cruise to the win in fine fashion - led by 6-foot-2 junior post Chantel Osahor with a game-high 24 points.
The Knight's next test will not come until the end of this month when they face Pinnacle HS at home (1/31).
Desert Mountain (15-5) would continue their strong play on the season Monday, with a 60-47 win over Westwood HS. Desert Mountain has now won 9 of their last 10 games. 6-foot-5 junior forward Diego Magana led the way for the Wolves - finishing with a game-high 19 points on 4 of 7 three-pointers. 6-foot-7 senior wing Austin Cooke contributed 14 points in the win.
Pinnacle HS (19-3) put on an exhibition Monday as they blew past Horizon, 75-56. Pinnacle led 25-7 after the first period and never looked back. Pinnacle's 6-foot-4 sophomore guard/forward Dorian Pickens led the way with a game-high 21 points and 7 rebounds in the victory, with Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek looking on.
The biggest surprise of the day definitely goes out to the Gilbert Tigers (13-4), after they caught fire in their game's second half - coming from behind and defeating Basha (16-3) in fine fashion, 68-52.
After trailing in the game's first half, 30-21, Gilbert's 6-foot-3 senior guard Freddie Lash would absolutely go off in the second half - hitting almost every shot he took. Lash and his determined Gilbert teammates would go on a 14-0 run to start the 4th period. Lash would finish the game with a game-high 24 points in the win.
After playing well in the first half, Basha would fail to get the basketball inside and take numerous il-advised shots in the second half, while Gilbert would capitalize off Basha turnovers - playing a very tough and unselfish brand of basketball. Gilbert would also shoot a blazing 61% from the field in the game's second half.
This Gilbert team is very well-coached by head coach Jay Caserio and his staff, and plays the game the right way. This was my second time seeing this team perform this season, and I have no doubts that the Gilbert Tigers will be playing late into February.
In the marquee match-up Monday evening, top-ranked Corona Del Sol would face Hamilton HS, as a pair of Arizona State signees would face-off - 6-foot-11 senior post Eric Jacobsen and 6-foot-2 senior guard Calaen Robinson.
Corona Del Sol would run away with the game, 63-47, after struggling in the game's first half. Calaen Robinson would lead Corona with a game-high 23 points, while Jacobsen would finish with a team-high 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Corona definitely looks like the team to beat in Arizona this season, but they did last season as well before losing in the state playoffs in blowout fashion to eventual state champion Mesa Mountain View. Let's see if this year's team can continue their strong play all the way to a state championship.