It was an exciting match-up as #11 seed Basha High School traveled to the West Valley to face #10 seed Sunnyslope High School @ Apollo High School in front of a packed gymnasium for the right to advance to the Open Division Finals. Sunnyslope (25-5) is accustomed to winning, one of the winningest programs in the state, but this year's group is young, and they would need to get past a tough Basha team in the process. Basha has been a favorite to make the Open Division finals all season long, but they would have their hands full with a well-coached and sharp-shooting Sunnyslope team that has been led by their youth all season long.
This contest featured two top teams, but also featured some of the state's top young prospects, as top-rated members of Arizona's 2026 freshman class were on center stage. Sunnyslope's stud freshman trio of 6-foot freshman John Mattingly (pictured), 6-foot-4 freshman Rider Portela and 6-foot-7 frosh Cristian Simmons were formidable, while Basha's stud freshman guard Mason Magee and 6-foot-8 frosh Elijah-Summers Livingston are also among the two elite freshman prospects in the state. With so many freshman starters in this match-up, it made for an exciting preview for the years to come, as we will definitely see both of these two top-rated programs in future Open Division Playoffs.
But the night would belong to the Sunnyslope freshman, as they would come out on fire from beginning to end - quickly applying pressure on the Basha team from the tip. Basha would quickly get down in this exciting contest and never recover.
Sunnyslope would quickly build a 12-4 lead in the game behind the lights out shooting of freshman guard Mattingly. Mattingly is one of the elite overall prospects in Arizona's 2026 Class, and the match-up between him and Magee was enjoyable to watch, as we will be watching these two go at it over the next three years of Arizona high school basketball, as both prospects will round out into elite national prospects over time. Mattingly and Portela's play early would allow Sunnyslope to build a fast lead, as the Vikings moved the basketball around the floor with precision and an unselfish nature. Another layup from Portela with 2:48 left to play in the first period would give Slope a 14-4 lead.
Mason Magee would not let his team down, as he would try to take the game over consistently to get some momentum going for his team. A mid-range jumper from Magee would pull Basha to within 4 late in the first quarter, as Slope would go into the second period with a four-point advantage.
Slope would get back to business in the second period, after another three-pointer from Mattingly from the wing and then another three-pointer from Mattingly - giving the Vikings a 21-10 advantage. Then late in the period, 6-foot-6 junior forward Jai Anthoni Bearden would get it going to knock down a three-pointer of his own to give Slope a 32-21 lead at halftime.
Basha would give the impression through the game that they felt like they could always get back in it, but Sunnyslope had a different mindset, as they played with intense aggression - looking to make plays consistently and apply pressure on the Basha team. Immediately in the second half though, Sunnyslope would continue to compete hard and make plays. Bearden would show his improved overall play, as he would pump fake his defender, then go baseline for a strong two-handed dunk on the baseline. Then two more three-pointers from Mattingly, a three-pointer from the top of the key by Simmons, and then a barrage of plays from Mattingly, which included a left-handed driving layup, a tap in off an offensive rebound of his own missed shot, and then a steal by Mattingly and an assist to 6-foot-1 junior guard Beau Hartman, and Sunnyslope would blow the game wide open - cruising to a big 56-35 lead after three quarters.
In the fourth period, Basha would turn up their sense of urgency, as they looked in amazement as a team at the fact that they had such a lead to overcome in one quarter. Basha would fight hard to come back but the Sunnyslope team would remain focused on their quest to reach the Open Division Championship. Rider Portela would then show his promise as a player in the final minutes of the game, as he would score on a layup over defenders, and then block a shot and score again with 4 minutes left to play to secure the semi-final victory over Basha, 70-47.
Mattingly and Rider Portela have been big for Sunnyslope all high school season, and this gifted freshman duo will be together for the next three years. While it is still very early for these two young prospects, Vikings fans and supporters can be excited for the future, as these two young prospects have Sunnyslope in this year's Open Division Final, where they will now face Arizona's top-rated team, #1 ranked Perry High School, for the Open Division Championship.