The girls’ basketball team at Goodyear’s Millennium High School is showing that it will be a major contender in Division I next season.
The boys’ team at Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School just showed the rest of the Division I field that they won’t be just a contender. The Aztecs will be in a world all their own.
There will be few, if any, teams that will be able to keep them from collecting their fourth consecutive D-I state championship.
Both Millennium and Corona used summer tournaments that were filled with many of the state’s best high school basketball programs to make their point.
Millennium rolled undefeated through the Lady Extravanganza tournament at Tempe High School, winning four games and beating last year’s D-I state semi-finalist Hamilton High to win that inaugural event. And a week later at Tempe High, Corona del Sol made quick work of four of the top boys’ teams in the state to win its second straight title at this weekend’s 4th annual Prime Time Summer Invitational.
This could be Millennium’s year since the Lady Tigers lost little to graduation from a team that went 27-4 last season. They were given the No. 1 seed in the Lady X and showed they deserved it by plowing through wins over No. 3 Hamilton, No. 5 Seton Catholic, the reigning D-II state champion; No. 6 Mesquite High, and No. 8 Valley Christian.
Organizers provided a strong field for the inaugural Lady X event, with seven of the eight teams reaching at least the semi-finals of last season’s state tournament.
Their steady defense is intact from last year, and it looks like Raina Perez is stepping up to provide more offense. The junior (next year) scored 21 points in the 49-41 victory in the championship match-up with Hamilton and was named the tournament MVP.
Unlike Millennium, the Corona boys’ team did lose a truckload of talent with graduation, three key players that included four-year starting point guard Casey Benson. But the Aztecs have a proven sophomore, Alex Barcello, to step into Benson’s role and will also return 6’7″ senior Dan Kuiper on the perimeter. And, lest we overlook him, a 6’11” man-child named Marvin Bagley III who will likely get a starting role as a freshman.
Kuiper, who has committed to play for University of New Mexico next year, scorched Pinnacle for 27 points in the Prime Time championship game. The Aztecs used hot shooting and an overwhelming transition game to shut the door early in the title game, pulling away to a 42-17 halftime lead and then clearing the bench early in the second half after they had mounted a 40-point lead.
The win over the Pioneers was especially sweet since Pinnacle turned the tables by beating Corona for the 2012 Prime Time title.
This time, Barcello led the first-half onslaught in the championship game against the Pioneers with 15 points and finished with 17 points in the little more than one-half of the game he was on the floor. He was the tournament MVP.
Corona’s only contest came in the Friday exhibition game with Sunnyslope High when the Aztecs found they had their hands full trying to contain the Vikings’ high-flying guard, Sammy Barnes-Thompkins, who scored 36 points in the 55-48 loss to Corona.
And that may be as close any team gets to the Aztecs in the coming season.