High School Hoops

Notes from the State Basketball Championships.

By Tom Danehy

THE AIA SCREWS up, example No. 867: For reasons known only to...well, I don't know if they're known to anyone who could actually articulate them, but the Arizona Interscholastic Association holds its state basketball championships at America West Arena (AWA) in Phoenix. This adds a certain glitz to reaching the state semi-finals (as in the vernacular statement, "We're going all the way to America West"), but the upside is swamped by the hideously machine-like way the tournament is run by the AIA and AWA.

Danehy For teams lucky enough to make it to AWA, they are greeted with a cold efficiency that sucks just about all the fun out of the situation, then uses the stolen energy to cook the arena's hot dogs, which are then sold for $8 each. Mustard extra.

With several games being played on one day, it's important to keep things moving along, but the people there take diabolical delight in their precision. They're the kind of people who liked H.R. Haldeman's haircut and thought Mussolini was an alright guy because he made the trains run on time.

They reached a new low last Saturday night after the Tucson Sahuaro-Page game for the Class 4A state girls basketball championship. Defending champion Sahuaro was playing without its two All-State players. Kelliann Glowacka had injured her knee in the quarter-finals, while point guard Katie Bruns had damaged her shoulder diving for a loose ball in the semis.

Leading 38-33 with about six minutes left, Sahuaro would suffer the agony of watching Page score the last 10 points of the game to win, 43-38.

Emotionally spent from the ordeal and the near-miss at a title repeat, the Sahuaro players sprawled on the floor with tears flowing. But the AIA droids hurried onto the court and told the girls they had to stop crying, get off the floor, and go TAKE A PICTURE WITH THE RUNNER-UP TROPHY!!!

Hey, we know you're 16 or 17 years old and this may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of you, but we didn't schedule time for you to have emotions. We've got another game to put on, so move it!

It reeks.

A FEW TIDBITS about the precarious nature of high-school playoff basketball:

  • Pueblo's boys team lost to Corona Del Sol, 63-62, last Friday when a last-second tip-in by Pueblo's Hakim Rasul was ruled to have come after the buzzer. I was sitting at floor level with four other coaches, directly adjacent to the Pueblo basket. Three of us thought it was a good call, while the other two disagreed. It was that close.

  • In the 1A-Central regional playoffs to see which teams went to state, Arizona Lutheran Academy was in a tight game with St. Gregory. The top player from ALA already had three fouls when he picked up a technical foul in the third quarter, then a personal foul in the fourth. But the scorekeepers hadn't counted the technical as a personal foul (it is), so he played on. He went on to hit the game-tying shot at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, then scored 10 points in OT to lead his team to victory. The mistake wasn't detected until it was too late.

    Oh yeah. ALA, which might not have even made the tournament, went on to win the state 1A championship.

  • Salpointe's girls are in the 5A Final Four today in Phoenix. This despite having a losing record on the season and finishing fourth in the 5A-South this year. With a couple weeks left in the regular season, Salpointe was in danger of not even making the regional tournament. But they clawed their way into fourth place, upset CDO in the first round of the regionals, and then found themselves in, shall we say, a very winnable bracket in the playoffs. Sometimes it takes a little luck.

    I coached some of those kids when they were freshmen and I'm happy for them. I remember telling one kid that I would see them standing on the America West floor when they were seniors. Boy, was that a stupid thing to say. Who knew?

  • Once again, the AIA thumbed its nose at the Class 4A by holding its entire state tournament in one week. After starting practice the first Monday in November and playing through the middle of February, 4A schools must then play a single-elimination tournament on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday of the same week. This gives no time to savor the achievement of advancing, and often turns the tourney into a battle to see which team has the best (and most) legs at the end of the season.

    Likewise, the 1A goes Thursday, Friday, Saturday and they're done, while the 2A, 3A, and 5A are spread over two weeks.

Finally, a note to those who cover high school sports. The teams that win the regular-season titles are the official conference champions. As for those teams that win the regional tournaments, all they win is a home game in the first round of the state playoffs. That's it. I saw more misinformation on that one point this year than I've ever seen before. So cut it out, although you're otherwise doing a fine job. TW

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