For Sunnyslope High School, it wasn’t hard to remember what it felt like to win a state championship in basketball. The boys’ team won a title just last year, and now the Vikings have become repeat champions by beating Deer Valley High School, 45-35, in last night’s 5A state finals at Arizona State‘s Wells Fargo Arena.
But for the Chaparral High School girls’ program, it had to feel like a new experience. The Firebirds’ last state championship was 17 years ago – before some of the girls on this year’s team were born.
So last night’s victory by the top-seeded Scottsdale school over a very good Mesquite High School girls’ squad was special in that regard. But the 63-55 win over the No. 2-seeded Wildcats was also the chance they waited for all season to avenge the loss they suffered to Mesquite in last year’s state semifinals.
Chaparral (26-5) started the game strong, while the Wildcats couldn’t seem to find a shooting rhythm, and pulled out to a 34-20 lead at the half.
Mesquite (27-4) recovered its composure going into the second half and managed to outscore Chaparral 25-16 in the third quarter to cut the Firebirds’ lead to five points by the end of that frame. But Chaparral kept the Wildcats at arm’s length the rest of the way, not allowing Mesquite to put together any threatening scoring runs.
The Chaparral back court of senior Maddie Vick and sophomore Anna Ostlie led the offensive assault, combining for 34 points, split evenly between the two. And freshman guard Jess Finney stepped up big to add nine points and dish out four assists.
Shooting guard Lindsey VanAllen led Mesquite with 20 points and point guard Shaylee Gonzales was just off her pace with 18 points and nine rebounds. Both are seniors.
Chaparral will graduate five seniors, but it appears they are leaving the program in good hands with some talented underclassmen.
On the boys’ side, Sunnyslope has a much bigger graduation problem since the Vikings’ roster is filled with 10 seniors. But the players will leave high school with three straight championship appearances and a couple of state titles on their resumes.
And once they got into the playoffs, they left no doubt they were headed for a second straight title, dominating the competition along the way. The No. 2-seeded Vikings (27-5) beat Chaparral High by 29 points, rolled over Sahuaro High with a 33-point rout, and then blew past Centennial High in the semifinals with a 42-29 walk-over to earn the right to take on top-seeded Deer Valley in the title game, also held at Wells Fargo.
It was three of those seniors who made key plays down the stretch after Deer Valley (26-3) recovered from a 13-point deficit well into the second half to close the gap to just two points in the final minutes of the game. Bryson MeWhinney, the team’s 6’1″ point guard, drove the lane to add two points to the Vikings’ slim lead and then canned a couple of free throws. Forward Kyle Fischer turned a clean steal into two more points and forward Chris Orozco added two points from the charity stripe to push the Viking lead to a safe nine-point margin with less than a minute to play.
After the mass exodus from the program, it’s safe to say that next year will be a re-building season for Sunnyslope.
But the school can take comfort in the fact that it now has four state titles in boys’ basketball, all coming since 2002.