The Arizona high schools will get a chance again this weekend to find out how they stack up against some of the better boys’ basketball programs from around the country.
But this year, our bench appears to be a little short-handed.
Six in-state programs will be included in the field of 15 teams that will compete in the fourth annual Hoophall West Tournament this weekend. There will be seven states, including Arizona, that will be represented in that field of some of the top prep teams in the nation.
However, just three of those are among the top-ranked programs in the state, according to the latest azcentral sports’ Super 10 rankings. Basha High School is No. 2 behind top-ranked Shadow Mountain, Corona del Sol High is No. 4, and Chaparral High is No. 5.
In conference rankings, Basha is No. 1 and Corona No. 2 in 6A, while Chaparral is No. 2 in 5A. St. Mary’s High is No. 2 in 4A, rounding out the local entrants with Perry High and Hillcrest Academy. Although not included in the AIA rankings, the recently-established Hillcrest is a basketball academy that has an elite roster that enables them to compete nationally and will likely do well in the Hoophall competition.
Initially called the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame High School Invitational, the tournament began 16 years ago at Western New England University. In 2013 it expanded to include a west-coast presence and picked Phoenix to launch the expansion. The first year it was hosted by Grand Canyon University, but has since moved to Chaparral High School in north Scottsdale.
Early on, the event was divided into two sessions, with local teams playing each other in the first session and the out-of-state entrants put in the second session, which was called the national showcase. This year, there will be just one event, beginning tomorrow and concluding on Saturday.
Corona del Sol won that inaugural event in 2013 and has been included in the field every year since. Chaparral is the only other entrant this year that was part of the original cast. But neither school back then had the chance to test their mettle against the nation’s elite since the in-state schools were separated from the visitors.
That was during Corona’s dominant era, coming off two straight state championships and poised for three in a row. They beat Shadow Mountain in the “marque” game that is played as the final game of the day.
In the second year, local teams were mixed with out-of-state entrants and Corona beat both local teams they faced but lost by one point to Sierra Canyon, a nationally-ranked California power. Last year, the Aztecs, who took a 70-game winning streak into the 2015 season, ran up against St. Anthony High School, the storied program in New Jersey run by legendary coach Bob Hurley that set a national record with 27 state titles. Corona and Shadow Mountain both lost to the Friars.
Shadow Mountain has skipped the Hoophall this year and St. Anthony is no longer in the field. But the Aztecs (3-0) will take another shot at proving they can play with some of the top prep teams in the country. And they have the talent to do it, with a senior backcourt that is arguably the best in the state. Alex Barcello is averaging 23 points a game and headed for Tucson to play for the Arizona Wildcats next year, and Saben Lee is a Vanderbilt commit.
Basha, undefeated after nine games, has two players averaging in double figures, 6’7″ senior post Gabe McGlothan (14.5 ppg) and senior shooting guard Terrell Brown (12.4)
I can’t think of a better way to spend some time on the weekend than watching really good high school hoops. First tip-off is 4 p.m. tomorrow afternoon, with the final game scheduled to start Saturday at 8 p.m.