It is not hyperbole to call the 1998-99 Chandler High girls basketball the best in Arizona history.
More than one publication labeled that Wolves squad as the “Team of the Century” a few months after it wrapped up a 32-3 season with the third of four state championships the program claimed in a five-year span.
With the tallest starting lineup in state history — an average of 5 feet, 7 inches — Chandler finished the season ranked 14th nationally by USA TODAY.
The Wolves on Saturday will be part of the 10th group to be inducted into the Chandler Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s going to be really special,” said Kami Vanderwalker (formerly Coombs), the team’s point guard who will make the trip from Florida for the induction ceremony. “As soon as I found out it brought back all those memories.
“We had some standout individuals, of course, but we were a cohesive team that really enjoyed how we worked together.”
Four players from that Chandler team played college basketball, including Lindsay Taylor, who later joined the WNBA in 2004. Taylor, currently playing in China, was inducted into the Chandler Hall of Fame in 2009.
The Wolves were coached by Mike Desper, a hall-of-fame inductee himself in 2004. Desper won 187 of the 242 games he coached, and led Chandler to three state championships.
The 1998-99 season was Desper’s last as a coach. He died from colon cancer in 2005 at age 44.
“All of Mike’s teams meant a lot to him, but that team was special,” said Meg Gianesello, Desper’s longtime assistant who still works in the school district. “The kids were a great reflection of the Chandler community.”
Joining the 1998-99 Wolves in this year’s class are: Tiffany Pedersen Berge, Jason Cascio, Lois Truman Emshoff, Eric Farris, Daniel Marshall and Dontay Moch. Additionally, the Chandler Compadre will receive special recognition for years of community service.
The induction ceremony and luncheon is Feb. 8 at 11 a.m. the Chandler Center for the Arts. Tickets for the event are $15 and available through the center’s box office (250 N. Arizona Ave.) or online through Ticketmaster.
The selection committee is comprised of former coaches, school administrators, athletes and others with a genuine interest in the history of athletics in Chandler. Hall candidates can be individuals or teams that brought recognition to the city.
Chandler Sports Hall of Fame class of 2014
•Tiffany Pedersen Berge was a three-sport star at Seton Catholic. She was a four-year starter in volleyball. As a senior, she led the team to the state semifinals. She also helped the basketball team win a state title, and added an individual title by winning the state championship in high jump. She became the first Seton volleyball player to earn a Division I college scholarship and attended Fordham University. In 2005, she returned to Seton as an assistant coach and helped the volleyball team win five state titles.
•Jason Cascio garnered two All-State selections in soccer at Hamilton. He scored 24 goals his senior season, twice earned Fiesta Region Player of the Year honors. He earned a scholarship to Seattle University. In addition to his soccer success, he also kicked for the 2003 state champion Hamilton football team. As a freshman at Seattle University, Cascio started and helped the team to the Division II NCAA National Championship.
•Lois Truman Emshoff has served as badminton coach at Chandler High for 41 years. She took over the tennis program in 1972, started the badminton program, served as assistant girls basketball coach and JV softball coach. Under Emshoff’s leadership, the badminton team won multiple region titles and four state championships. She pursued a Title IX complaint in order to push for equal sports facilities and opportunities for girls at Chandler High. As a result of this action and continued efforts of other Chandler coaches, the administration provided better locker rooms, softball fields and other facilities.
•Eric Farris played shortstop and third base at Hamilton. The team earned back-to-back state championships in 2003 and 2004. Farris hit .469 with 41 RBIs and 50 runs, as well as 14 stolen bases. He was a Collegiate Baseball/TPX All-American and was named Arizona Player of the Year by the East Valley Tribune and Arizona Baseball Coaches Association. He was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2004 but chose to take a scholarship to Loyola Marymount. The Milwaukee Brewers picked Farris in the fourth round of the 2007 MLB draft.
•Daniel Marshall competed in football and basketball but excelled in track and field at Hamilton from 2000-04. He holds school records in the long jump (22-9), triple jump (46-8) and high jump (6-6). He earned the title of All-American Scholar Athlete and Hamilton’s 2003 Athlete of the Year. Marshall was the state champion in triple jump as a junior and senior. Marshall attended the University of Arizona, where he competed in indoor and outdoor track and field.
•Dontay Moch excelled on the football field and on the track at Hamilton from 2002-06. A defensive end, he anchored a defense that helped the team to state titles as a junior and senior. On the track, he won the 200 meters state championship in 2005. Moch attended Nevada on a football scholarship. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Moch in the third round in 2011 and he joined the hometown Arizona Cardinals during the 2013 season.
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