The high-school state quarterfinals are here and it’s about this time that the story lines begin developing. And this year is no exception.
It’s the back stories that often make games more interesting, and here are a few to consider in the top division:
On the girls side in Division I, there are some great storylines forming, beginning with this afternoon’s 4:15 pm match-up between No. 4 Mountain Pointe High School and No. 5 Desert Vista High, and the 7:45 game that features No. 1 Dobson High School and No. 8 Millennium High. The most likely results would find Dobson and Desert Vista moving on to the semis.
And that would set up an even more interesting game that could potentially take place in Friday’s semifinals.
Dobson and Desert Vista met during the holidays in the Nike Tournament of Champions, vying for the championship in the top division of the 84-team national event. Desert Vista jumped all over the Mustangs by bolting out to a 15-3 lead and holding the double-digit advantage throughout on the way to a 53-42 victory.
That win ran Desert Vista’s record to 12-0 and handed Dobson a stinging first loss of the season. It’s unlikely that Dobson has forgotten how that felt.
On the bottom half of the bracket we find the ‘Cinderella’ team of the tournament, Chaparral High School, taking on Westview High. Chaparral is seeded No. 14, but has knocked off No. 19 Tolleson Union in the first round and then stunned No. 3 Liberty High. That’s even more impressive if you consider the Firebirds were beaten badly by both teams in the regular season, losing by 19 to Tolleson in December and by 20 to Liberty in the final game on the regular-season schedule.
However, if Westview manages to end Chaparral’s impressive run, that could set up yet another re-match between two top teams. Should No. 2 Mesquite High beat No. 10 Hamilton High, Mesquite could meet Desert Vista in the semifinals. And that would become a rubber match for the two teams and set up what could possibly be the most interesting pairing of the tournament.
Desert Vista still has a chip on its shoulder regarding Mesquite after the Wildcats ended their 19-game winning streak On Jan. 24. But eight games later, Desert Vista evened the score in the final game before sectionals. In the first meeting, Mesquite won by two points on a pair of free throws in the final four seconds of the game. In the second game, Desert Vista won by three points – in double overtime.
A third meeting would be a barn-burner.
And the boys have a big game awaiting in their quarterfinals on Thursday when No. 1 Corona del Sol High School takes on Mesa’s Mountain View High. Mountain View is seeded No. 9, but is playing like that seed was an insult. The Toros are winning big in the playoffs, beating Ironwood High School by 28 points in the first round and then scoring 86 points against No. 8 Highland High as it coasted to an 18-point romp to earn a spot in the quarterfinals.
This game will be a re-match of the final game in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge at the end of December, when Corona rallied from an eight-point deficit at halftime to pull out the 76-68 victory and run its undefeated record to 13-0. The Aztecs, the two-time defending Division I champion, rolled through that tournament with four straight wins and then went the rest of the way through the schedule without a single loss to an in-state team. Their only misstep all season was a 20-point loss on Jan. 4 to Findlay Prep, the high school basketball power in Henderson, Nev.
Now they need just three more wins to complete an unbeaten in-state record and claim their third straight state crown.
No. 2 Dobson High is playing in the bottom half of the boys’ bracket and offers a back story all its own. In addition to being seeded No. 2, the Dobson girls’ team is top-seeded and has to be considered the favorite to win it all. So there’s an outside chance we could see the rarity of one school bringing home both state titles.
However… the Dobson boys would probably have to find a way to get past Corona, should they get to the finals. But, if history is any indicator, that’s not out of the question. Dobson lost to the Aztecs in their only other meeting this season, in late December – but by just five points.
And, as we all know, anything can happen in a high-school basketball game. Corona isn’t out of the woods yet.
A Dobson win for the boys’ title would have to be the story of the playoffs.