The exciting Open Division Playoffs have been a hit in the valley, as this has been the first year that the AIA has instituted such a division, which allows for the state's best teams to compete with one another at the end to the high school season. The Open Division has now completed two rounds in the Open Division, and there have been some major surprises already, although #1 seed Perry High School continues to roll.
Perry has rolled through the first two rounds of the Open Division Playoffs, after defeating Cienega High School (78-54) in the opening round and then blowing out Pinnacle High School in their rematch on Friday evening (87-34). Perry now advances to the quarterfinals where they will face #8 seed Liberty next Saturday evening, in what will be another nice rematch from an earlier contest this high school season. Perry is definitely the team to beat during this year's Open Division State Playoffs, and is the clear favorite to win it all. Liberty is playing their best basketball of the season, after defeating a talented Millennium High School program in the second round (91-83). Liberty did not have the services of 6-foot-8 junior forward Ring Nyeri in the last meeting with Perry, so the addition of Nyeri could make a big difference in this next quarterfinal match-up.
The second quarterfinal match-up between #13 seed Desert Mountain High School and #5 seed Ironwood High School will be an excellent one, as both teams compete hard and play fast. While the Desert Mountain program is very young and led by the play of rising star freshman guards Kalek and Kadyn House, this team has had a terrific season under the leadership of Head Coach Mitch Armour - compiling a 24-4 record on the season. Armour has worked hard to develop the other players on his team, and made sure to get contributions from everyone around the "House Twins." Desert Mountain is tough as a team, and will be tough to beat, as they play so hard as a team.
Ironwood High School (23-5) has also had a terrific season thus far, and are coming into this match-up looking to build on their big playoff win over Canyon View High School. Ironwood has blown out much of their competition this season, and they are playing their best basketball under terrific Head Coach Jordan Augustine. Augustine has this team well prepared for a nice state title run, as the team is very well balanced and competes hard and plays together. Ironwood is a tough, hard-nosed team that will match Desert Mountain's intensity and athleticism. This will make for another excellent Open Division Playoff match-up between Ironwood and Desert Mountain.
Notre Dame Prep came in as a #14 seed, which was very interesting, and they proved that they are much better than their seeding, as they defeated #3 seed Peoria High School with ease in the second round of the Open Division Playoffs (69-53). Notre Dame Prep (23-5) is also playing their best basketball of the season, and are now winning basketball games even when key players are in foul trouble, as they did against a very talented Peoria team. They will have their biggest test of the season though against a strong Basha team, that came in as a #11 seed and knocked off Brophy Prep in the second round, in what was a war. Basha will come into this quarterfinal match-up as the clear favorite, but the young and talented group from Notre Dame Prep will be up for the challenge. There will be numerous talented prospects on the floor in this game, which should be very exciting to see. A potential match-up of Basha's 6-foot-4 junior forward Christian Warren and Notre Dame's 6-foot-4 junior Anthony Batson will be a nice match-up in this contest.
The final quarterfinal match-up between St. Mary's and Sunnyslope will be very fun to watch, as both teams are also playing their best basketball of the season. St. Mary's got a big upset victory in the second round over #2 seed ALA Gilbert-North (87-77), which was an impressive victory for the Knights. St. Mary's is riding the lead of 6-foot-2 junior star guard Styles Phipps and his play, and is primed for another upset over #10 seed Sunnyslope High School. Sunnyslope got a nice win over #7 seed Campo Verde in the second round and won the game in impressive fashion (64-43). St. Mary's and Sunnyslope will be a nice match-up and is one of the more interesting games in these Open Division playoffs.
Overall, while it is still early and we are in the quarterfinals of the Open Division Playoffs, there are some very exciting match-ups that will determine the semi-finals of these playoffs - making some very good basketball left to be played.