‘Twas not the winter of everyone’s discontent. At least not for all the basketball players, soccer studs and wrestlers who took their shots, saves and takedowns for glory’s sake and found some.
For others there was heartbreak, and in between were too many tales to (re-) tell, but as “February Frenzy” fades and gives way to another spring’s eternal hope, this was a crazy month to absorb.
So here’s a proverbial sponge to remember and re-hash the best of times:
Corona del Sol repeats the hard way
The Corona del Sol boys basketball team ran roughshod over the competition on its way to last year’s Division I title. The result this year was the same, but the journey wasn’t nearly as easy. It was nearly a quick exit for the eventual state champions. Mountain Pointe had the Aztecs on the ropes three times in the second round. The quarterfinal was another struggle but again Corona del Sol held on by a point against Goodyear Millennium. The team played well to beat Desert Mountain in the semifinals and then used a game-closing 13-2 run to rally and beat Pinnacle, 63-59, for the championship. Four players were in double figures in the title game, as a re-tooled Corona team surprised many with the repeat despite the loss of impact players Calaen Robinson, Avery Moss and Andrus Peat from a year ago.
A milestone is always special as three different local players were able to crack 1,000-career points this season.
Mountain Pointe senior Caitlyn Hetrick and the Desert Vista duo of senior Kylie Butler and junior Emily Wolph all did it at various times this season.
It is hard to monitor but it’s a pretty good guess that three different players passing the 1,000-point barrier never happened before among the Ahwatukee schools.
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Many of the top boys basketball teams from 2012-13 will be in contention again next season. The Division I semifinalists will each return their best player — Corona del Sol’s Casey Benson, Pinnacle’s Dorian Pickens, Cesar Chavez’s Pablo Rivas and Desert Mountain’s Rolando Rhymes — while Gilbert Christian aims for a three-peat next season behind Sam Jones and Roberto Reyes. State quarterfinalists Gilbert (Truman Moore, Spencer Nicolds, Anthony Bryant) and Mesa (Isaac Allen, Jalen Jenkins and Christian Harris) also have substantial talent returning, while Jake Toolson at Highland, Payton Dastrup at Mountain View, and Jordan Howard at Perry look for more team success entering their senior years. This year’s junior class is the best in Arizona history, and many of the key players showed it by leading their teams deep into the postseason. The quality of next year’s play should be even better.
The Desert Vista girls basketball team deserves credit for putting together a solid end to the season after having a coaching change in January. After first-year coach Jaysie Chambers Sheppard was asked to resign and eventually fired, junior varsity coach J’Ontar Coleman stepped in and led the Thunder (18-11 overall) to a 6-4 record before falling to three-time state champion St. Mary’s. The district has to open the position, a very attractive one with two Division I players (Kristine Anigwe and Wolph) back next year.
A weekend full of East Valley wrestling winners was highlighted by the terrific trio of Dalton Brady (Chandler), Alex Bambic (Desert Vista) and Seth Monty (Mountain View), who combined for nine state titles and 12 overall medals combined for the trio’s careers. Brady (Utah Valley) became the 28th wrestler in Arizona history to win four state titles in his career, and did it by wrestling up two weight classes to try and help the Wolves win a team title (Chandler took second behind juggernaut Tucson Sunnyside). Bambic dropped a whopping three weight classes during his career and transformed himself from a fifth-place finisher as a freshman at 215 pounds, to a champion at 215 as a sophomore, won it all at 195 pounds as a junior and 182 pounds this year to match Robbie Mathers as a three-time state title winner in school history. A three-time finalist in his Toro career, Monty (Arizona State signee) overcame knee surgery a month prior and won his second state title.
Thunder soccer doubles up
The Desert Vista soccer programs came up just short of a dream scenario, but it didn’t take away from being able to have both the boys and girls squads qualify for the Division I state finals. The girls lost 1-0 to Xavier, while boys were handed a 3-0 loss by Brophy.
One of the all-time best
It’s hard to think about it now because even two weeks later it probably still hurts, but the players and coaches of the Mountain Pointe boys basketball team will be able to say they played in one of the greatest games in Arizona history as many called it after the Pride lost 66-65 in double overtime to top-seeded and eventual Division I state champion Corona del Sol.
The Pride, seeded No. 16, put it all together the last two weeks of the season to beat Gilbert and Red Mountain and barely lost to Mesa before taking on Corona, which was bailed out by clutch shooting by Casey Benson and Bryan Siefker.
The Pride girls basketball team won 26 games and advanced to the state quarterfinals before falling to Highland. When Trevor Neider took over the program, Mountain Pointe won three games the year before. Over the last four years, the Pride has won at least 20 games with a .775 winning percentage (93-27) compared to the .224 (17-59) percentage in the three years before Neider took over.
• Staff writer Jason P. Skoda contributed to this story.