Division I state hoops titles go to Corona del Sol, St. Mary’s

Apparently, loading up both sides of the championship games with a boys’ team and a girls’ team doesn’t improve the odds of a school winning a state title.

At least, based on recent results, that would seem to be the case.

Desert Vista High School sent its boys’ and girls’ teams to the Division I state soccer finals, but the boys fell to No. 1-seeded Brophy Prep, 2-0, and the girls were unable to hold off Xavier Prep, which scored a pair of long-range goals in the second half to take home that title.  In Division II, Apollo High School tried to pull of the same feat as both of its teams made it to the finals.  The boys couldn’t keep Salpointe Catholic from repeating as state champ and the No. 14-seeded girls’ team closed out its Cinderella run through the playoffs with a 3-0 loss to Catalina Foothills, which has won four straight state titles now.

Yesterday, it was Pinnacle High School giving it a try in another sport.  Both of the school’s basketball teams worked their way through the Division I state tournament to the final game of the season.  Both went home empty-handed.

The odds were slim anyhow that Pinnacle would win both titles.  According to Scott Bordow, writing in his column in The Arizona Republic, the last time a school accomplished the feat was 15 years ago.

The No. 3-seeded Pinnacle boys were actually ahead of eventual winner Corona del Sol High School almost the entire game, until the Aztecs pulled ahead by one with just a shade over one minute left to play.  The Pioneers, who came into the game with 16 consecutive wins, even held a seven-point lead with three minutes to go, but couldn’t hold on as Tempe’s Corona recorded the 63-59 victory and capped its second straight title.

Drew Bender and Dorian Pickens scored 24 points apiece and the Pioneers piled up 28 points in just the first quarter.  But, in the end, it just wasn’t enough.

But if you want a picture of complete frustration, look to the girls’ side.  The Pinnacle girls’ 49-37 loss to St. Mary’s High School was the sixth time since 2007 that they have made it to the title game – and the sixth time they’ve come up short.

Talk about a tough bus ride back from the game!

At halftime, they were even six points ahead of St. Mary’s, not only the top team in the state but the No. 3-ranked team in the country.  But the Knights stepped on the gas after intermission, going on a 14-0 run in the third quarter and turning up the heat on defense to force 17 turnovers in the second half.

It was an almost impossible challenge for Pinnacle, which was the last team to beat St. Mary’s – back in 2011. Yesterday’s championship makes it three in a row for the Knights.

Some solace comes from the fact that the only other time the two teams faced each other this season, in last month’s MLK Classic, St. Mary’s won by an even larger margin, 63-43.  But it does little to ease the pain from one more runner-up finish.

There weren’t any high-scoring performances in this one, but each team had a couple of players in double figures.  Courtney Ekmark, who hung 17 points on the Pioneers in the MLK Classic game, scored 14 for St. Mary’s and Chantel Osahor added nine points and 10 rebounds.  Britta Nordstrom put in 12 for Pinnacle and Kenna McDavis contributed 11 points.

In Division II play, Paradise Valley High School picked up its third boys’ state championship and the girls team from Scottsdale’s Saguaro High captured its first.

After getting bumped from the state tourney in the quarterfinals last year, the No. 8 seed Saguaro girls beat No. 1 Bradshaw Mountain High in this year’s quarters, then went on to a 41-35 victory over Liberty High in the semis before taking down sixth-seeded Flowing Wells High School from Tucson for the title.  The 49-38 win was fueled by 9-of-19 shooting from behind the arc and double-digit shooting from a pair of juniors.  Casey Rarrick led with 15 points from her guard position and Naomi Reyes chipped in 13.

Paradise Valley has three boys’ titles, but hasn’t brought home any hardware since 1997, when they won their last.  This year, senior Paul Watson took the matter into his own hands and was all over the court in leading his Trojans to the 45-39 victory over Tucson’s  Salpointe Catholic.   The 6’6″ wing finished with 20 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and five steals.