Seton Catholic is back.
The small Chandler high school of 600 or so students is back in a familiar place – atop the girls’ basketball 4A Conference. The Sentinels beat Tucson’s Sahuaro High School over the weekend to win its 11th state championship.
Seton has dominated the sport for more than two decades, competing in 16 title games over a span of 25 years, and three times stringing together three-peats.
All of those title appearances and state championships came while Karen Self was directing the program. This marked the 27th year Self has been running the show. Her 11 state titles at Seton are the most in Arizona prep history.
The Sentinels were coming off a three-peat (2016-18) last year when Shadow Mountain High School finally put an end to the streak with a 54-31 victory in the championship game. Shadow Mountain was the top seed in the state tourney, while Seton came in as the No. 2 seed.
Shadow Mountain, while worthy of the title, caught Seton on a year when their offense was somewhat depleted. The Sentinels lost two of their top three scorers from the 2018 season – Sarah Barcello and Kendall Krick – to graduation.
But this year’s team more resembles that 2018 group that went 32-3, posted 15 games in which it scored 70 or more points, and wrapped the season by winning its last 20 games.
This season they played 29 games and lost just three of those – none of which were to local teams. The three losses went to teams from California, Colorado, and Wyoming.
They scored 70 or more points 11 times and finished the season with 16 straight victories. Sound familiar?
And Seton was just as relentless in the final game for the title, using a 22-6 scoring advantage in the second quarter to take control early on the way to a 70-40 rout. Not surprising since they averaged a 43-point margin over the course of their first three tournament games, outscoring those opponents, 210-80.
You can’t tell it by the final score, but Sahuaro was no pushover. The No. 3-seeded Cougars finished the season 28-2, the best record in the state, and had been averaging 65 points a game. The Cougars knocked off No. 2 seed Shadow Mountain HS in the semifinals to earn the right to take on top-seeded Seton for the title.
But Seton’s smothering full-court pressure and harrassing man-to-man defense kept Sahuaro’s top scorers, Alyssa Brown and Alyssa Franke, in check. Brown was 10 points off her season average of 34 points a game and Franke was held to 11 points. And the team shooting percentage was an anemic 24 percent.
Meanwhile, Seton had four players in double figures. Sasha Daniel, Amanda Barcello, and Annemarie Trojanovich each contributed 11 points, while Lexi McNabb added 10 points.
The bad news for the other 4A teams next year: this is a young team.
McNabb and Daniel are sophomore guards, as is LeeLee Willis, who scored eight points, 12 assists, and three steals — and took on the very difficult defensive assignment of guarding Brown. Barcello and Trojanovich are juniors.
It would appear the Sentinels aren’t going away any time soon.