The girls 6A high school basketball state playoffs begin tonight and both Ahwatukee big schools made the 16-team field.
Mountain Pointe, the No. 8 seed, opens at home against No. 9 Red Mountain at 7 p.m.
Desert Vista, seeded 15th, opens on the road against No. 2 Xavier, also at 7.
A recap of their regular seasons and a look at their playoff fortunes:
Mountain Pointe is on a roll, winning 10 of its last 12 games by an average 32.6 points.
After going 21-11 last year, Mountain Pointe lost six seniors and had to rely on inexperienced players. The Pride, however, improved that record, to 19-8, and appears ready for the playoffs.
“Every year is like a puzzle, trying to put something together,” Mountain Pointe coach Justin Hager said. “Every year is a new team. We have two returners that actually played last year, so we’re sort of green when it comes to playoff experience.”
One of them is Brea Patterson (8.4 points, 2.1 steals, team-leading 39 three-pointers made), who cracked last year’s senior-heavy rotation as an underclassman and plays with a chip on her shoulder.
“People are excited that we are even in our spot,” Patterson said. “A lot of people don’t expect us to be where we’re at. They think Mountain Pointe is not really whatever, like we’re a ‘whatever’ team.”
Freshman Jaida Brooks has played like a senior, leading the Pride in scoring at 14.5 points. She also averages 2.8 assists and 2.7 steals.
Mountain Pointe’s two late losses both were to Highland, by a combined four points. Senior center Kate Fagan said that gives the team belief that it can play competitively with top teams in 6A.
“I feel like we just need to have confidence in ourselves,” Fagan said. “We’ve worked hard, we’ve trained hard and we’re going to do what we have to do and finish the job.”
Although most are playoff first-timers, they know what’s at stake, Hager said of his players.
“They know it’s win or go home,” Hager said. “I don’t think they need any added pressure.”
Desert Vista returns to the playoffs after a year’s absence under second year coach Raymond Patche.
The Thunder (16-13, 15th seed) doubled the score on 18th seeded Mountain Ridge, 68-34, in a Feb. 7 play-in game to advance.
“I’m excited for the girls to get this opportunity and continue to play on,” Patche said. “There’s no feeling like this feeling. I know your Senior Night comes but then you get to go into the playoffs and write your own story.”
The team had a rough stretch in the middle of the season, losing four in a row.
“We just wanted to improve,” Patche said. “We wanted to be better than we were last year and obviously make a decent run if we can, even a dark-horse run to the state title. Obviously, this year we had some ups and some downs, but we’ve improved and just continue to grow and develop the talent that we do have.”
Cameryn Harris, who is among the DV scoring leaders, has big aspirations for her team.
“I think that we’re going to make it to at least the final eight,” Harris said. “Hopefully if we’re working together and work hard as a team then we should be alright. We have the talent and we have the coaching staff to get us to the next level.”
With limited minutes during her sophomore year, when the program last made the playoffs, Harris, a senior, sees improvement.
“Honestly, I think our team gels way better this year,” Harris said. “Our team’s connectiveness is through the roof. We’re really all pretty close and we all look out for each other. I think that is the difference between this year and last year.
“(I want) to show what my team’s got, prove everybody wrong because, honestly, we’re the underdog right now.”