GLENDALE – Soon after the nets were cut down about year ago and a perennial power was dismantled, Division I girls basketball coaches knew for the first time in years a state title was in the offing.
With the run of St. Mary’s championships a slew of teams saw an opening to become the next state champion.
In reality only a few had the true attributes - talent, determination, chemistry and confidence - to take that step, but only Desert Vista actually pulled it off to be the 2014 Division I state champion.
The Thunder won the program’s first state title on Saturday with a 53-37 win over sixth-seeded Westview at Jobing.com Arena.
“I knew it was up for grabs and I knew it was our time,” Desert Vista coach J’ontar Coleman said. “I knew we had the talent. I thought we could take over Division I basketball.
“I even texted (senior) Emily Wolph that we were going to win a state champion. She said let’s do it. It might never happen again, but we have one.”
Fifth-seeded Desert Vista (30-2) dominated the middle two quarters to erase some early erratic play as 6-foot-4 junior Kristine Anigwe took over the game to power a comeback from a 13-4 deficit.
She finished with 25 points on 11 of 15 shooting and grabbed 17 rebounds. It wasn’t just because she had four inches on the Knights’ post players. For the second straight game Anigwe played with a different purpose.
“It’s a determination to win,” Anigwe said. “You have to play like every game is your last game and do whatever it takes to get it done.”
Desert Vista outscored the Knights 39-11 over the second and third quarters to take control of the game.
“I told them to play DV basketball,” Coleman said about the conversation between quarters. “Attack the basket. Once we attack everything else will fall into place. We started going inside and Kristine started rolling.
“I had a one-on-one with Kristine at halftime and I told her we feed off her. She took it to a whole another level after that.”
Senior Emily Wolph, who is a leap year (Feb. 29) baby, got to celebrate her birthday with 11 points in a state championship that the program has been focused on since she and senior Lindsey Payton were on varsity as freshmen under coach Rachel Proudfoot.
“It’s unreal after finally after four years starting with Coach P,” she said. “All the haters who said we could never do it have to deal with it. It’s unbelievable right now and it probably won’t set in for awhile.”
It was only fitting that Desert Vista struggled at the outset.
Considering where this program was 13 months ago when Coleman came in as interim coach, the Thunder have taken the long way round to the state title.
“This will never be forgotten and push everyone one of us even harder,” Wolph said. “This has been an incredible run and it has been pretty special.”
The start to the game wasn’t anything reminiscent of Thunder basketball and was exactly what Westview needed.
Desert Vista was impatient, taking quick shots, turning the ball over and playing like a team put together for a pickup game instead of 32 minutes of championship basketball.
The Knights were still feeding off buzzer-beater confidence from the semifinals and patiently worked out an 11-4 first quarter lead. When Westview scored the first basket of the second quarter, it was getting dangerously close, if the Thunder hadn’t turned things around, to being very a difficult deficit.
Eventually the game turned and the Thunder ended up being the team waiting in line near the basket with a pair of scissors in their hands.
“On the bus ride here I got that gut feeling that told me we were going to win,” Coleman said. “I got a chill on my spine. I knew these girls were up for it. The coaches do the Xs and Os but the girls were ready to do the rest.”
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.
No. 5 Desert Vista 53, No. 6 Westview 37
Westview 11 8 3 15--37
Desert Vista 4 19 20 10--53
Westview - Koval 1-2-4, Grandon 5-3-13, Contreras 4-3-12, Sesma 0-0-0, Rincon 3-1-8, Carter 0-0-0, Alvarado 0-0-0, Smith 0-0-0, Wilcox 0-0-0, Cuspard 0-0-0. TOTALS: 13-9-37
Deset Vista - Payton 2-1-5, Anigwe 11-3-25, Martin 0-1-1, Wolph 5-0-11, Haines 4-1-7, Coro 0-0-0, Brimley 0-0-0, Gorayeb 0-0-0, Barfield 0-0-0, Donahue 0-0-0, Davis 0-2-2, Joiner-Lister 0-0-0, Alexander 0-0-0. TOTALS: 22-8-53.
Field goals: Westview 13-51, Desert Vista 22-44. Free throws: Westview 9-15, Desert Vista 8-9. 3-point attempts: Westview 2-14, Desert Vista 1-6. Rebounds: Westview 22 (Grandon 7), Desert Vista (Anigwe 17). Assists: Westview 8 (Koval, Grandon 2), Desert Vista 14 (Haines 5), Turnovers: Westview 11 (Koval, Grandon 4); Desert Vista 23 (Wolph 7). Blocks: Westview 1 (Grandon); Desert Vista 5 (Anigwe 3). Steals: Westview 12 (Contreras 4); Desert Vista 6 (Anigwe, Haines 2).
Points in the paint: Westview 20, Desert Vista 40. Points off turnovers: Westview 19, Desert Vista 7. Second chance points: Westview 9, Desert Vista 13. Fast break points: Westview 4, Desert Vista 2. Bench points: Westview 0, Desert Vista 2. Largest lead: Westview 9 (13-4); Desert Vista 23 (51- 28).