Border League a tough test for AZ prep basketball teams

The Border League basketball tournament held over the weekend in the East Valley was a good idea.

It just didn’t turn out that well for the Arizona high school teams that decided to enter and test themselves against schools from other states.

None of the eight Arizona Interscholastic Association member teams that were entered came away with better than a .500 success rate.

Since the pandemic had virtually eliminated the usual opportunities for teams to play during the summer, the Border League was born with the idea of giving the players some on-court competition before the regular season starts, in a safe environment.  Teams were put into 16-team pods, staying in the same gymnasium for the entire three days, getting regular temperature checks and using separate entrances.

Five Gilbert-area public schools hosted the 80 teams that were invited.

This was also a chance to showcase teams from around the state, as well as some of the better programs and players from other parts of the country.

Sunnyslope High School was the only local team playing in the Top Flight Invite bracket at Highland High School, to compete with the top programs in the event.  Most of the teams were using club names, so Sunnyslope was entered as Tri-Star Basketball.

As luck would have it, Tri-Star’s first of three games was against national power IMG Academy, which was competing as National Spotlight.  The result was a humbling 68-39 loss to the team that went on to win the Top Flight bracket by beating Air Nado from Nevada in the 68-59 finale.

Tri-Star lost its next game, but finished out the three-day event by beating the California entrant, Big Red, 52-42.  Big Red went home winless after losing all three games by double digits.

The seven other Arizona teams were playing in the Arizona Division, at Gilbert High School, along with nine teams from out-of-state.  Each team got to play four games, with four local squads collecting two wins apiece, while the other three picked up just a single win.

Finishing with 2-2 records: Brophy Prep, Glendale Eagles, Mountain Pointe, and St. Mary’s.  Those going 1-3:  Catalina Foothills, Gilbert Hawks, and Gilbert Tigers.

The Gilbert Hawks and Mountain Pointe were the only two teams to win their first games, to be able to advance on the winner’s side of the bracket.  And Mountain Pointe was the only team to win the first two games by beating San Francisco BC, 74-69, in Friday’s opener, and the East Side Boyz from Nevada, 60-58, on Saturday.

This was a great opportunity to prepare for the COVID- delayed season that will start in about four weeks, while building the team chemistry that would have taken place during a normal preseason.

It also helped the coaches build on their teams’ strengths and uncover their weaknesses.

For some teams, it was a wake-up call.