While there will be a very interesting match-up in the division-I finals on Monday, the championship game for the state's Division-II Class will be epic, as the premier team in the division and also the premier team in the state of Arizona all season long, Shadow Mountain High School, will face an almost undefeated team in Agua Fria High School Monday evening in the Division-II final game of the year at Gila River Arena.
Shadow Mountain (26-5) advanced to the state finals after escaping another big upset loss to Paradise Valley HS. Shadow had recently loss to PV in January, so the Trojans came into Saturday's game with superior confidence. Saturday's contest against Paradise Valley would be in the semi-finals though and at Gila River Arena. Shadow Mountain would overcome a nice lead by Paradise Valley in the first half with superior toughness and confidence. Senior guard Michael Bibby Jr. and freshman guard Jaelen House would team up on both ends of the floor for the Matadors down the stretch - pulling Shadow Mountain out of an uncomfortable situation in the game.
Paradise Valley (24-5) would take a nice 29-22 first half lead behind the strong play of 6-foot-1 senior guard Jacob Brown and 6-foot-5 senior forward CJ Vanbeekum. Vanbeekum created many mis-match problems for Shadow Mountain in the first half, as he scored effectively in transition.
With Shadow Mountain playing very tight early in the third period, Paradise Valley would build their lead to 8 points, 32-24, after a nice three-pointer from 6-foot senior guard Dominic Rogiers. But Shadow Mountain would begin to fear losing the game, and the duo of Michael Bibby Jr. and Jaelen House would take the game over. After a steal and a layup from Bibby, and a driving layup from House, Shadow Mountain would take the game's momentum for the first time. House would close out the third period with a strong driving layup around a defender - tieing the game at 39 all.
Mike Bibby then would start the fourth period with a three-pointer to give Shadow Mountain their first lead of the game, 42-39. Then Dominic Rogiers would bank a three-pointer, and then make a very nice looking mid-range jump shot to pull to within 1-point of Shadow Mountain, 49-48, with 4:07 left to play in the game. But just as Rogiers would begin to heat up, Michael Bibby would rip the ball from him and convert a layup. Then Bibby would go coast-to-coast for an uncontested layup, then another length of the floor layup soon after to put the game away late.
Shadow Mountain would walk away with a 65-56 semi-final victory. Michael Bibby would lead all scorers with a game-high 24 points. Junior guard Darion Spottsville would finish with 15 points.
#1 seed Shadow Mountain will face #2 seed Agua Fria at 6PM on Monday evening at Gila River Arena in the Division-II semi-finals. Agua Fria (28-2) eliminated Sunrise Mountain 71-68 in the earlier semi-final game. Agua Fria has been super-tough all season, and it is only right that they compete against Shadow Mountain to win it all. First-year head coach Randy Lavender has been terrific this season in leading this group, and playing at an up-tempo style of play on both ends of the floor.
On Saturday, 5-foot-10 senior guard Jordan McCants would pour in a game-high 25 points and 7 steals, as Agua Fria won an impressive 23rd consecutive game of the season. McCants also converted 6 straight free-throws in the final 52 seconds of the game to lead his team to the big win.
Sunrise Mountain HS 6-foot-6 senior guard Elijah Thomas (Saint Mary's College signee) also finished with the same game-high 25 points - making 5 of 9 3-pointers and collecting 9 rebounds and 4 assists in his final game of high school career.
Sunrise Mountain overcame a late deficit in the game, behind the play of Thomas. Thomas helped Sunrise Mountain to a narrow 63-61 lead with 4:41 left to play, but Agua Fria's would hold Sunrise Mountain to only 7 points down the stretch.
Michael Walcott had 18 points for Sunrise Mountain in the loss.
Shadow Mountain and Agua Fria will make for a very exciting game, as both teams will look to push the basketball the entire game. Both teams are quick and athletic. This match-up will provide very little structure and will come down to flat out, players making plays.