A re-match between the Hillcrest Prep and PHH Prep national high school basketball programs won’t happen this week, but there will be some top-level hoops being played by nationally-ranked teams at this week’s Grind Session World Championship in south Phoenix.
(*Update: AZ Compass Prep claimed the right to being called the best high school team in the country with a 70-67 win over Florida’s BFL Prep in the championship game of the Grind. Joshua Uduje, a 6’5″ senior wing, hit a three-point shot at the buzzer to seal the win.)
Hillcrest, which is based in Gilbert, and Phoenix’s PHH played each other in early February, the first time since both programs were formed, Hillcrest six years back and PHH Prep two years ago.
PHH won that game, 112-92, and used that win to further establish itself as a dominant force in Arizona, as well as a legitimate national contender by beating a recognized national power.
Hillcrest, which began in the 2015-16 season as the first and only national prep basketball program in the state at that time, pulled in a couple of No. 1 high school prospects in the country as it built its credibility at the national level. Last year, the Bruins climbed the national rankings to No. 3 at one point in the season.
So beating Hillcrest earned PHH additional credibility during its formative years. And then the Fire went out on Saturday and knocked off La Lumiere, a nationally-ranked program out of Florida, in a dramatic 65-64 win.
Hillcrest, which was undefeated going into the PHH game, did lose a pre-season exhibition game to another national power based in Arizona when AZ Compass beat the Bruins last fall.
AZ Compass, a Chandler-based program that is considered by some to be the best high school program in the nation, and PHH Prep will both be playing in the Grind Session World Championship, which is being hosted by PHH Prep at its south Phoenix facility, with games starting this afternoon and running through Saturday.
Arizona will be well-represented at the event. In addition to AZ Compass, which will be the No. 1 seed in the tourney, and PHH Prep, there will be three additional local entrants: Dream City Christian (Glendale), Bella Vista (Scottsdale), and Eduprize (Gilbert) academies. The Bella Vista College Prep program, which got its start in 2017, won the 2018-19 national grind session.
PHH will play Victory Rock Prep, a Florida team, at 1 p.m. today, followed by Dream City at 5 p.m. and AZ Compass at 7 p.m. Bella Vista and Eduprize are play-in teams.
Hillcrest does not participate on the Grind Session circuit, but instead schedules games with junior college teams, other national prep programs, and plays in national showcases around the country. Thus, the Bruins will not be in the field for the World Championship.
Arizona’s chances of being able to claim this year’s national champion look good. In addition to AZ Compass as the top seed, Dream City is seeded No. 4 and PHH is No. 7.