It was the third time these two teams would meet this high school season, and it would be no different, as the last two meetings were much of the same - exciting, electric basketball action between these two teams of players. While Apollo (26-4) had won the last two close games, and the last meeting resulting in an amazing triple-overtime victory by Apollo, Monday evening would see the tables turned, as Sunnyslope (27-4) would become the victor in the final game of the season, the one that mattered the most - winning this year's 5A State Championship with a 58-57 double-overtime victory.
In the previous triple-overtime win by Apollo, gifted senior point guard Holland "Boo Boo" Woods (Portland State signee) had a game-high 41 points. On Monday evening in this year's 5A final, in a very much similar result, Woods would again finish with a game-high 33 points in his team's double overtime loss - including a near game-winning shot after the buzzer sounded. Woods gave his all in this contest, as he has all season long, but would come up just short in winning it all. Woods will become a star guard for Portland State in the very near future, as most college coaches past on this amazing talent.
Sunnyslope, whom had built an early lead in the contest, had an advantage inside the paint area, behind the play of 6-foot-5 junior post Chris Orozco and 6-foot-4 junior guard/forward Kyle Fischer (pictured). While Fischer plays inside for Sunnyslope, as a result of the team's lack of post size, Orozco is a true post presence for the team, and had an excellent and consistent junior season inside for the Vikings. Orozco finished with a team-high 25 points in the championship win, while Fischer contributed 17 points.
In front of a packed house at Grand Canyon University, these two teams fought it out - playign as hard as they could in a very fast paced game that included loads of intensity, intrigue and excitement. As someone who grew up in Northwest Phoenix, and experienced many years of success of these two basketball programs in the 1980's, what better two programs to meet in the state's final game this season. Sunnyslope and Apollo are two of the state's best and most storied basketball programs, and these young men that took the floor on Monday evening held up that honor - making their fans and alumni very proud. There was really no loser on Monday evening - truely. These young men made their programs and the state proud with their play, heart and determination.
For the Apollo team and their wonderful head coach Jacob Marin, well done all season long. This team had a terrific season and proved to everyone just how good they were, despite an skeptics. Their backcourt of Woods and senior guard Dre Marin (Southern Utah signee) was tremendous - as good as any in the state and even the West. This team will return a lot of talent next season as well, but they will lose alot as well. This year's team though reminded us of the previous triple-state championship ballclubs in year's past. Well done Hawks.
For Sunnyslope, this team overcame the adversity of losing in the state finals last season and getting back to the final game. This time, they would bear down and win it all, even when the pressure got immense. The last two seasons have been wonderful for the Vikings, and next season they will return every player, yes every player from this year's team. Three state title appearances in a row? I am declaring it now.
Sunnyslope head coach Ray Portela and his staff have built a tremendous basketball program over the years, after many were unsure that it could be done after the retirement of legendary head coach Dan Mannix. With Mannix spending much time around this Vikings' program, his presence is still felt. It is now Portela's era, and he is quickly building a juggernaut. Well done to the Sunnyslope team, players and fans - this has become one of the elite basketball programs in the state.
Congratulations to both programs on reminding us just how good basketball is in the state of Arizona, despite criticism from those that do not understand our state's rich basketball tradition. These two programs understand it and proved it Monday evening.