While many of the state's top girl's teams in the Division-I Class faced off in the first round of this year's state playoffs on Wednesday, the state's and nation's top-ranked St. Mary's Knights (26-1) waited quietly for their second round match-up - earning a bye in the first round. While teams, at times, struggle after a layoff, the Knights would get some much needed rest in preparation for their third consecutive state championship run.
St. Mary's, sporting the best lineup of players that the state has ever seen on one team, is so good that we may need to stop the girl's state playoffs now, give them the trophy and place them in the boy's state playoffs. This group of girl's basketball players is absolutely loaded and seems to be only playing against themselves this season, and also in this year's state playoffs. The amazing fact about this year's group is that they push themselves in every game, and on every possession down the floor - not satisfied with mediocrity or even excellence.
When asked after the game about her team's desire to play hard on every play, St. Mary's 5-foot-7 senior guard/forward Chloe Johnson (San Diego State signee) stated, "That's just how you are supposed to play - you are supposed to play hard."
In today's game of basketball and high-profile boy's athletes, playing hard is no longer a given, but rather has become a scouting attribute. When a kid plays hard, it has become a good thing - as if other players do not. In girl's basketball, playing hard is a common thread that all girl's top prospects possess. For the St. Mary's Lady Knights, it is a must for head coach Curtis Ekmark and his dominant team.
On Friday evening, St. Mary's proved just how focused they are, once again, as they completely dominated a talented Desert Vista HS (18-11) team. Desert Vista is not just any high school program, as they have atleast 3 different division-I prospects on their team. Junior point guard Emily Wolph is the state's top-rated 2014 point guard prospect, and 6-foot-4 sophomore post Kristine Anigwe is among the state's best overall talents and the state's top young post prospect.
St. Mary's would jump out to a huge 31-10 lead after one quarter, and by the half, would jump out to a tremendous 47-16 halftime lead. St. Mary's would go on to cruise to another playoff victory - an 80-34 second-round win over Desert Vista.
Are you kidding me? Is St. Mary's this good? Are opposing teams playing afraid of this group, or are these Knights just that good? I am going to say it is definitely both, as the Knights have now won an amazing 57-straight games against Arizona high school competition. Their last win on the season also came in blowout fashion of previous undefeated Westview HS. Westview was an amazing 32-0 before St. Mary's ran them out of the gym.
These state playoffs will be the last time the state of Arizona will have an opportunity to see a girl's team as dominant as the Lady Knights perform, so it is imperative that we watch, enjoy and relish this opportunity. There may never be another team like this in the state again.
St. Mary's will now move on to face #8 seed Chandler High School on Monday in the quarterfinals of this year's state playoffs at Wells Fargo Arena.