The invincibility factor is history among the 6A boys basketball state tournament field. It took the length of the regular season for Corona del Sol and Basha to drop a power-ranking game. They did on the final night of regular play, bowing to Desert Vista and Perry, respectively.
Basha and Corona still have a very good chance of making the finals and one or the other winning it all, but a hungry field is emboldened. Regardless of whether or not Corona and Basha would lost, this tournament has the makings of thrills and spills from the start.
Here's a look at the matchups:
TOP HALF OF BRACKET: #1 Corona del Sol (23-3)-#16 Mountain Ridge (15-12); #9 Central(21-7)-#8 Westview (23-2); #12 Mountain View (17-7)-#5 Pinnacle (21-6); #13 Chandler( 13-14)-#4 Cesar Chavez (22-4).
Corona's hopes for a title after missing out last year does revolve around D-I college-bound Alex Barcello (Arizona) and Saben Lee (Vanderbilt). In tandem and in synch another title banner is within reach for the Aztecs. Mountain Ridge gained momentum from its play-in win over Red Mountain on the road and is led by Jared Rodriguez and Saikou Gueye. Westview features its own dynamic duo in Brenden Van Dyke and D'Maurian Williams and split games with region rival and qualifier La Joya. The Knights showed they would be a team to be reckoned with from the opening tap with a runner-up finish in its first invitationa and narrow loss to Pinnacle. Central closed the season with three wins, includng a play-in triumph over Desert Mounain. The Bobcats couldn't solve Cesar Chavez (three losses) and some other top teams. Central relies on Terry Gardner, Teancum Davis and Anthony Hightower, who have helped the Bobcats progress from a .500 team a year ago. Mountain View's ability to go far will be predicated on consistent scoring punch. Nick Sessions has been the primary scorer much of the season. The Toros can be a handful if all hands are on deck. They get a rematch of a loss to Pinnacle, one of the younger teams in the field that has little trouble filling it up.Trent Brown, Nico Mannion and Spencer Rattler are part of the young guns .Mannion, a freshman, is averaging 20 ppg. The Pioneers are decent enought inside if they have to be. Chandler is one of the up and down squads, but when the Wolves game is on they are dangerous. Marquee player is junior Tevian Jones, clicking at just under 20 ppg. Cesar Chavez had little trouble navigating its region and ventured outside its region for games with many of the top teams -- Basha, Corona del Sol, Pinnacle, Gilbert, Mountain View and Chaparral to name a few. Powerful and skilled Michael Rogers is a handful for any team to defend for the Champions.
BOTTOM HALF OF BRACKET: #14 LaJoya Community (18-5)-#3 Desert Vista (17-5); #11 Hamilton (17-10)-#6 Brophy Prep (18-7); #10 Desert Ridge (13-14)-#7 Gilbert (14-11); #15 Mesa (19-8)-#2 Basha (26-1).
La Joya made a name for itself battling Westview to a standoff in its region and opening with a resounding play-in game win over Perry last week. That was the Perry team that handed Basha its only loss of the season. Quincy Smith and Tre Mitchell are the pacesetter for the senior-dominated Lobos. Desert Vista brings momentum to the postseason with its season-ending win over Corona on the Aztecs' home court. The Thunder have the most versatilty in lineup choices, but finding the right mix is the key. They are led by Wesley Harris, Caleb Simmons and Noah Baumann. Hamilton and Brophy are no strangers as this will be their fourth meeting of the year. Brophy has won two of the first three. Hamilton relies on steady junior guard Rashad Smith (15 ppg.)Doug Harris's squad has flipped its record in one season (10-18 last year). Brophy has been tested plenty this season competing with Basha, Hamilton, Chandler and Perry in its region. Every team Brophy played in pwoer-ranking games save two made it to postseason (Skyline and Boulder Creek). The Broncos are led by NAU football signee Matthew Kempton. Desert Ridge is a game under .500, but it played in the toughest region top to bottom in 6A along with its first-round foe Gilbert. Desert Ridge and Gilbert are meeting for the third time. Gilbert won the first two encounters. Gilbert, like Desert Ridge, has seen plenty of competition with two games each against Corona del Sol, Desert Vista, Mountain Pointe and Desert Ridge plus a slate of non-region foes. Gilbert is led by speedy guard Doc Selt and CJ Waters. Mesa got a trio of losses at the end of the regulars season out of its system in beating Sunnyside on the road in a play-in game. Some early tough losses kept Mesa, the defending big-school champs, are lower in the power-rankings than desired. The result is facing Basha in the first round, a rematch of a hard-fought D-I semi last year. DJ Henderson is Mesa's inside threat, perimeter-wise its Zach Hobbs. The defensive stalwart is Mark Hatch. Basha's loss to Perry may have been a blessing. No pressure for an unbeaten season and of course the reality that the Bears can be beaten. Basha coach Mike Grothaus says his team has rebounded from the defeat and regained focus. The Bears are led by Gabe McGlothan (14 ppg) and Terrell Brown (15 ppg) The Bears excel at team play at both ends of the floor.