The Tigers will win both 5A state hoops titles. Count on it


Basketball fans at Millennium and Gilbert high schools get a special treat this season.

Instead of making the trip to Arizona State‘s Wells Fargo Arena to watch their teams play in a state title game, which is a special occasion in itself, the fans at each school will be able to stay around for a double-header.

What were the chances when the season began that the 5A state championship games would feature the exact same schools in both the boys’ and the girls’ games?

And, to make this oddity even more implausible, both sides will be rooting for the Tigers.

Yep, the Gilbert Tigers will be playing the Millennium Tigers.

Goodyear’s Millennium is the top seed on the girls’ side, with Gilbert seeded No. 2.  In the boys’ game, Gilbert is the No. 1 seed and will be playing the No. 6 seed.  The girls will be the teams bringing the firepower, with Gilbert averaging 76 points over the first three games of the tournament, including a 96-point explosion in the quarterfinals against Apollo High, and Millennium averaging 71 points over the last three games.

Neither of the boys’ teams match up to that kind of offensive output, with Millennium (22-6) averaging 65 points throughout the playoffs and Gilbert (28-1) using an average of 56 points to get to the finals.

The Gilbert boys beat McClintock High in the semifinals, 46-45, to get to the championship game.  They held a slim 20-19 lead at halftime, but kept ahead of McClintock almost the entire way, fueled by Jake Ehmann‘s 13 points and another eight points and 13 rebounds from center, Carson Towt.

Millennium’s boys had a more difficult time of it, taking a 30-25 lead at the half, but working hard the rest of the way to keep No. 3-seeded Apollo High at arm’s length.  Three times, Apollo closed the gap to just eight points, but the Tigers held on, thanks in large part to a 21-point performance by DaRon Holmes, who also scooped up 14 rebounds and blocked five shots.

In the girls’ semis, Gilbert climbed the biggest mountain by knocking off No. 3 seed, Horizon High, in a 68-52 victory that Gilbert had well in hand for most of the second half.  As the Tigers have done all season, they rode the strong play of the Cavinder twins, Haley and Hanna.  Haley dropped in a team-high 25 points, while also contributing seven rebounds, and Hanna scored 17 points and collected eight boards. One other Tiger was in double figures, as Symone Humphrey chipped in 11 points.

Millennium (27-4) didn’t even wait until halftime to take a commanding lead in their semifinal game against No. 12 seed, Casteel High.  The Tigers controlled the boards, out-rebounding Casteel (18-12), 45-29, and getting behind the scoring of Ali Zelaya (22 pts.) and Dominique Phillips (18).

The girls’ game will begin at 6 p.m. in the Feb. 25 championship game at Wells Fargo Arena, with the boys to follow at 8 p.m.

Here’s an inside tip:  The Tigers will win both games.