In a departure from the norm, neither of this year’s selections for The Arizona Republic Big Schools Player of the Year led their teams to a state title.
Dorian Pickens, this year’s boys’ selection for the award, came about as close as you can to carrying his Pinnacle High School team to the Division I state title, scoring 41 points in the championship game that went into overtime before time ran out on the Pioneers and Corona del Sol pocketed its third straight state title by squeezing out a 71-70 victory.
And Cecily Watson, the girls’ award winner, led her Mesquite High School team to a No. 2 seed in the state tourney, but fell in the quarterfinals in a stunning loss to 10-seeded Hamilton High. Mesquite was the only team to beat the eventual state champion, Desert Vista High – doing it twice during the regular season – and was expected to get another shot in the championship game.
The 5’9″ senior, who played both guard and forward for the Wildcats, averaged 19.6 points and nine rebounds a game, and was considered by the selection committee to be the team’s most valuable player, which was an important factor in her being honored as the best player in the state.
Pickens averaged 25.2 points and 6.5 rebounds during the regular season, hitting 52 percent of his shots from the field. The 6’5″ senior guard carried his squad through the playoffs, averaging 29 points and 12 rebounds against some of the state’s best teams.
He is heading for Stanford to play for the Cardinal after graduation, while Wilson has accepted an offer from Long Beach State.
Wilson leads a five-player selection to the All-Arizona Girls Team that includes three seniors, a junior, and a sophomore. The other two seniors are Julia Barcello from Seton Catholic, who averaged 14 points to lead that team to the Division II state championship, and Camille Zimmerman, who averaged 25.4 points for Tempe Prep to earn the Small Schools POY award. Kristine Anigwe, a junior from D-I state champ Desert Vista High, and Raina Perez, a sophomore from Millennium High School, round out the team.
The All-Arizona Boys Team also has three seniors on this year’s roster. In addition to Pickens, Jake Toolson from Highland High and Casey Benson from Corona del Sol are the senior representatives. Toolson averaged 27 points for the Hawks and Benson will graduate as the school’s all-time assists leader and second-leading scorer.
Kris Lamberson, the Small Schools Player of the Year, did not make the list. The senior point guard averaged 18 points for his Arizona Lutheran team and led the school to the Division IV state title.