State championship games are played out on the biggest stage in high school sports. But there was no sign of stage fright in Saturday’s match-ups in 6A, the state’s top conference.
That’s because both winners have been there before. Many times.
This season, Sunnyslope High School took home the boys’ state championship trophy, while the Valley Vista HS girls pocketed another gold ball for their title win.
Sunnyslope squeezed out a thrilling 63-62 victory over Mountain Pointe HS to earn its third state title in the last five years. Valley Vista’s 49-41 win against top-seeded Hamilton High is the Monsoon’s second consecutive state championship, and the fourth in the last five years.
And it’s also the second straight year that Valley Vista, the No. 2 seed this year, beat Hamilton in the title game. The Huskies won titles in 2016 and 2019, but haven’t been able to get past the Surprise school to notch another title win.
Hamilton actually won the regular-season meeting with Valley Vista, 41-33, in mid-February, but the Chandler school couldn’t overcome cold shooting in the title game, including a first half that saw the Huskies sink just four of their 22 shot attempts.
After falling behind, 13-4, at the end of the first quarter and down nine points at the half, the Huskies played catch-up until tying the game a couple of times in the fourth before Valley Vista pulled away to a 10-point lead in the game’s final minute.
Valley Vista senior Marisa Davis was the game’s high scorer, with 21 points. The Washington Huskies-commit also contributed 12 rebounds to the winning effort. Senior Amyah Reaves led Hamilton with 18 points, nine rebounds and a couple of assists.
On the boys’ side, the title game was between a couple of teams that weren’t even included on the preseason Super 10 list. But both earned the right to play for the gold ball — particularly Sunnyslope.
The Vikings overcame a start to the season that included a 14-day COVID quarantine immediately after winning its opening game, and then went on to deal with a challenging schedule that included a lot of catch-up games played only days apart.
Sunnyslope posted a 17-1 regular-season record to earn a No. 1 seed in the playoffs and finished 21-1, with just a two-point loss to Mesa – in overtime – standing between them and a perfect season. Mountain Pointe, which started the tourney seeded No. 6., finished the year 15-6.
This title game lived up to what a championship bout should be, a closely-played contest that could have gone either way. Sunnyslope took a final 55-54 lead with 2:41 left to play and held off a Mountain Pointe surge in the final minute. A Jason Kimbrough lay-up and three-pointer made it a one-possession game at 63-60, with 10 seconds left to play.
Tru Washington put up shot from behind the arc to try for the tie that would send the game into overtime, but the effort failed by inches. A two-point Pride basket at the buzzer by Kimbrough, who grabbed the rebound off Washington’s shot, left the rally just a point short.
The Vikings’ scoring was led by 6’8″ forward Elijah Saunders who finished with 16 points. Kimbrough and Washington shared scoring honors for the Pride, with 16 apiece.
This title loss was especially hard to swallow for Mountain Pointe. This was a second straight runner-up finish for a team that has yet to win a state crown in the sport.