Corona del Sol HS tops local field at inaugural Hoophall West


Basketball fans who attended the inaugural Hoophall West Invitational over the weekend at Grand Canyon University had a chance to watch some of the best high school teams in the country, as well as some of the best teams in the state of Arizona.  Unfortunately, the format was set up so that the locals didn’t get a chance to see what they could do against the out-of-state visitors.

The team that was likely the most disappointed with that arrangement was Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School.

Corona, the Arizona state champion in Division I the past two years, played the ‘marque’ game of the two-day event, the final game at 8 p.m. Saturday night.  They won, as expected, but Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix gave the Aztecs all they could handle.

Shadow Mountain was unbeaten through the first seven games of the season, but found themselves 17 points down shortly after the second half got underway.  They battled back to come within five points with just over a minute left in the game before the Aztecs pulled out the 84-75 victory to remain undefeated at 7-0.

Corona buried 10 three-pointers and had five players in double figures, led by Dane Kuiper‘s 17 points.  Russ Davis and Jarrett Givens each added 16.

On the other side of the floor, Shadow Mountain had the game’s high scorers.  Michael Bibby had a game-high 24 points, followed closely by Carlos Johnson with 23.  Bibby and Johnson are both sophomores and Bibby’s father, NBA great Mike Bibby, serves as an assistant coach for the team.

Shadow Mountain played a great game, but it should be pointed out that Corona’s 6’9″ senior forward, Connor MacDougall, sat out part of the third quarter and all of the fourth after injuring his shoulder.  MacDougall played last year for Westwind Prep Academy‘s national team and his transfer to the Tempe school gave this year’s team the added talent it needed to become one of the best the school has put on the floor.

MacDougall had 13 points before leaving the game and Casey Benson, last year’s Arizona Player of the Year, finished with 15

With five of the better teams in the country and many of the best high-school players, this would have been a good test for the Aztecs.  The field included Mater Dei High School, which has won the past three California state championships and is ranked No. 3 nationally; Oak Hill Academy from Virginia, a top-10 nationally-ranked team; Nevada’s Bishop Gorman High; Yates High School from Houston, Tex.; and Orange Lutheran High, another top California program.

One of those elite players on the Mater Dei squad got a lot of attention from Arizona’s college fans. Stanley Johnson, the No. 9-ranked player on the ESPN 100 who is wrapping up four years as a starter for the Mater Dei team that has won a state title each year he has played, has committed to play for University of Arizona and is expected to be an early impact player for the Wildcats.

Also in the Arizona division, Gilbert High School clinched third place with a 56-41 win over Scottsdale’s Chaparral High.  Truman Moore, the 6-8 forward for Gilbert, led the way with 16 points and added a couple of blocks to his defensive effort.

This tournament is an expansion of the original Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame High School Invitational, which debuted 13 years ago at Western New England University.  It is now played each spring at Springfield College in Massachusetts and picked up a new sponsor in 2007, when it became known as the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

Many consider it to be the premier high school basketball invitational in the country.  Last year it drew more than 13,000 people to the games played on the final day and featured 16 teams that were nationally-ranked at some time during the 2012-13 season.

So, while Hoophall West drew some really good teams for its inaugural event, organizers are hoping this event follows the path of its originator and joins the ranks of the elite prep tournaments.

And maybe they will give some consideration next year to letting Arizona’s top teams challenge the nation’s best in head-to-head competition.