Playing for the runner-up trophy in the playoffs has become something of a way of life for high school basketball teams that play in Arizona’s 4A division.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a boys’ team or a girls’ team. Same gloomy outlook.
That’s because the Shadow Mountain HS boys’ team and the Seton Catholic girls’ team have managed to corner the market on 4A state championships.
And this year is no exception.
Shadow Mountain, a relatively small school of about 1,400 students in northeast Phoenix, just beat Tucson’s Salpointe Catholic, 83-79, for this year’s 4A state title. That’s the fourth championship for the Matadors in the last five years; Gilbert Christian squeezed in to win the 2015 title.
Former University of Arizona and NBA star Mike Bibby took over coaching duties from Jerry Connor, who was head coach for the Matadors’ 2014 championship run, and has led the program to the last three consecutive titles.
Under Bibby, Shadow Mountain has won 71 consecutive games against in-state opponents. They even spotted Salpointe 22 points in this year’s finals before leaving the gym with the four-point victory. The Matadors were down 58-36 in the third quarter before going on a 32-11 run that saved the game.
Jaelen House fueled the comeback bid with 15 of his game-high 30 points during the run. His 14 steals gave him a double-double performance that will be remembered by Matador fans for some time to come.
Three other Matadors were in double figures: Immanuel Allen (15 points), Jovan Blacksher (12), and Jalen Williams (11).
For Salpointe (16-16), it was a trio of juniors putting the points on the board, all three in double figures. Luc Rosenblatt led the way with 24 points, Orion Ochoa added 17, and Majok Deng chipped in 12 more.
To add a little icing to the cake, MaxPreps just put Shadow Mountain at No. 3 on its list of the top five programs in the country over the last five years.
And for Seton Catholic, an even smaller school (600) located in Chandler, the domination by that program has been going on for more than two decades. The Sentinels’ march to this year’s title game is the 14th time the program has played for a state championship in the last 23 years, and the 10th title during that two-decade span – all under current head coach Karen Self, who just wrapped up her 25th season directing the program. And this one marks the third time that Self has managed to put together a three-peat.
A 55-42 victory over Tucson’s Pueblo Magnet High School, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, in the finals capped off a 32-3 season that included 15 games when Seton scored 70 or more points. To close out the season, the Sentinels strung together 20 straight wins.
The senior guard tandem of Sarah Barcello and Kendall Krick led the offensive assault, with Barcello putting up a game-high 18 points and Krick adding 13 more.
It took top-seeded Seton a little while to settle into their normal rhythm as Pueblo (30-3) took an early 10-5 lead into the second quarter, but the Sentinels were up 19-13 by halftime and held the lead the rest of the way.
Pueblo’s senior guard Ilyssa Diamond Galindo led the Warriors with 17 points.
Barcello and Krick are moving on from Seton, but will be able to continue playing together since they have both committed to play for Marist College in New York.
For the other girls’ programs in 4A, they’re no doubt happy to see Barcello and Krick depart, which means Seton loses two of its top three scorers. However, the team’s top point-producer is junior Sara Pfeiffer, who averages 19 points a game.
But there will be little relief on the boys’ side since Shadow Mountain returns House and most of the rest of its current roster. Allen is the only senior out of the top five scorers this season.
The bottom line: Expect to see both schools in the mix next year for yet another title run.