This year's Open Division Playoffs have been exciting and has taken AIA basketball to another level this high school season, as the top 32 teams in the state from the 4A, 5A and 6A Classes have battled it out for the opportunity to be classified as the defining overall State Champion for the 2022-2023 high school basketball season. This has been an amazing opportunity for us to find out who the top overall team in the state is annually, while also allowing for the best competition for each of the state's top teams at the end of the high school season. The addition of the state's Open Division Playoffs has been tremendous and is taking Arizona high school basketball to another level.
While the State Final for the Open Division will not take place until next weekend (March 4th), the semi-finals are now set and will take place Friday evening at two respective high schools in the valley, as #1 seed Perry High School will face #13 seed Desert Mountain High School in one semi-final, and #10 seed Sunnyslope High School (pictured) will face #11 seed Basha High School in the other semi-final matchup. Both games will be intense, exciting contests to determine the Open Division final.
Perry (28-1) has rolled through the high school season, and also through the Open Division Playoffs. Can anyone slow down this team or stop them from winning it all. After an early season surprising defeat at the hands of Pinnacle HS, Perry has not looked back and has taken their team play to another level behind the dominant play of 6-foot-8 senior guard Cody Williams (Colorado signee, McDonald's All-American) and 6-foot-8 sophomore forward Koa Peat, one of the elite prospects in America. Perry has had a nice supporting cast all season as well, as many different players have stepped up when they have needed to - helping this team remain dominant and providing the support needed to take pressure off of Williams and Peat, as needed.
Perry blew out Pinnacle in their rematch (87-34) in the second round of the Open Division Playoffs, and then cruised past #8 seed Liberty High School (79-60) in the quarterfinals, in what was another nice rematch between two top programs, although Perry made it look easy again. Perry will now face a very game and focused Desert Mountain team in the semi-finals. While Perry has been the favorite to win it all, all season long, Head Coach Sam Duane Jr. and his experienced staff will look to bring it all together again for back-to-back state championships, but this time in the Open Division, after winning the 6A State Championship last year.
Desert Mountain (25-4) has had a terrific season under first-year Head Coach Mitch Armour, as the program received new life this season, led by the superb overall play of "The House Twins," - freshman guards Kalek and Kaden House. The young House brothers are enjoyable to watch perform, as they both play intense basketball on both ends of the floor and play without any fear of their opponents. These two young men have been terrific all season, and had overcome many obstacles in this year's Open Division Payoffs - leading the Desert Mountain program to big Open Division playoff wins over Mesa High School (76-60) in the first round, #4 seed Highland High School (64-55) in the second round and a huge quarterfinal playoff victory over Ironwood High School (81-61) in the quarterfinals on the road.
Desert Mountain has had some major wins already in these playoffs, but will now face their biggest test of the high school season Friday evening @ Highland High School, when they face top-ranked Perry High School. Desert Mountain will need to get serious interior support from each of their post players to attempt to keep Perry off the glass in this exciting semi-final match-up, although the Perry guards will certainly have their hands full trying to slow down the House Twins, as no team has been able to do so all high school season. This is a nice matchup of contrasting styles and players, and should be very enjoyable to watch take place for all basketball enthusiasts, as there will be many top-rated prospects on the floor. One team, Perry, has already arrived, while Desert Mountain is on the rise, and will take a huge leap, if they can upset a juggernaut Perry team in the process.
Basha (25-4) has had a very strong season as well, and have been keeping their eyes on an Open Division Championship all high school season. Basha has had the toughest road to the Open Division semi-finals, as they faced some serious competition in the process of advancing. After an open round defeat of Centennial High School (53-48), the defending 5A State Champions, Basha then knocked off a very talented and tough Brophy Prep team (57-49), before defeating Notre Dame Prep (68-60) and advancing to the semi-finals for the Open Division. Basha has a nice balanced attack that is led by the overall play of 6-foot-4 junior Christian Warren and superb freshman guard Mason Magee. This team is focused on getting to the Open Division Championship, but will continue to have their work cut out for them, as they will need to overcome more big opponent challenges to win it all this high school season.
Basha's next big challenge will be to defeat a Sunnyslope (24-5) program, that is accustomed to winning at this time of the high school season and has a strong winning tradition. Sunnyslope advanced to the semi-finals after a big, but controversial 63-62 overtime victory over St. Mary's HS in the quarterfinals. Sunnyslope is very young but very talented, and have received strong play from their talented freshman duo of 6-foot freshman guard John Mattingly and 6-foot-4 freshman Rider Portela (Both pictured). The Vikings will have their work cut out to defeat a strong Basha team, and the coaching battle between Basha Head Coach Mike Grothaus and Sunnyslope Head Coach Ray Portela will be one for the ages, as these two head coaches are two of the elite coaches in the state. Sunnyslope will face Basha on Friday evening at Apollo High School, a neutral site that should be packed with ultra excitement for basketball fans in attendance.
These two semi-final matchups will lead to the Open Division Championship next week and will be two interesting and exciting games to watch, as we look to define our first ever Open Division Champion.