Don Ketchum
Former Staff Writer,

Winter sports gave us many warm memories

March 6, 2011 by Don Ketchum, AZPreps365

Before we swing into spring sports over the next 2 ½ months, I just wanted to pause for a moment and reflect upon the recently completed winter season.
It was quite a finish to the boys and girls basketball seasons.
The two Class 5A Division I boys finalists, Mesa Mountain View and Phoenix Brophy Prep, were prime examples of what team basketball is all about.
Some of the memories that mean the most are the most simple.
As I approached Mountain View coach Gary Ernst for a postgame interview, he patted me on the shoulder and said, “You have been around almost as long as I have.’’ Yes, it’s great to still be here watching these high school athletes and getting to know many of them and their coaches.
As for individual performances, how about the 58 points scored by Mesa’s Jahii Carson against Brophy in the 5A-I semifinals? It was one of the most amazing efforts I have seen.
It was a delicate balancing act for Jackrabbits coach Shane Burcar, utilizing Carson’s talent but keeping his other players involved.
The 5A-II boys championship game was emotional. Laveen Betty H. Fairfax rode the wave of momentum and defeated Scottsdale Chaparral in double overtime. Fairfax and Phoenix North showed that the Metro Region still is capable of being a force. And you have to feel for the Chaparral players and staff, who fell by a point in the 2010 title game.
From the opening tip of the season, the girls from Phoenix St. Mary’s had only one focus – winning the title, and completed their mission with a big win over Chandler. Chandler coach Zon Thompson did another fine job of assembling talent and getting the players to work together.
Tolleson’s girls earned their third straight 5A-II title. The Wolverines seldom have had much height, but coach Todd Nelson always seems to get maximum effort from his players. He has established himself as one of the top coaches in the state, be it girls or boys.
Attending a playoff game at Florence between the Gophers and Kayenta Monument Valley was a pleasant reminder of how important the games are to the smaller communities. The fans seemingly hold their breath on every play.
Belated congratulations are in order for all the state-champion wrestlers and teams. I firmly believe that wrestlers, soccer players and swimmers are the best-conditioned athletes.
After covering some soccer games this season, I actually grew to enjoy the sport more and more. Although the scores usually are low, there is a great deal of strategy involved. I saw some amazing saves by the goalkeepers.
And I don’t think I have ever been as cold as the one night at the state tournament when the temperature was around 40 and the howling wind made it seem about 25 degrees colder. This desert dweller’s thin blood did not serve him too well.
With new sectional tournaments being played next school year, here’s hoping that they will be as exciting as those in the previous region formats.
It’s been enjoyable, and I look forward to seeing what happens next winter.
Now it’s on to baseball, softball, track and field and tennis!