Several bits of news and information trickled in from across the East Valley high school sports scene the past couple weeks, so here’s a chance to catch up on the comings, goings, doings, and un-doings during the spring before tennis (this week) and then all other state tournaments begin in early May:
With spring practice about to begin, new Corona del Sol football coach Cory Nenaber paused for a few minutes this week to talk about the move from Maricopa back to his alma mater, changes, and a few rules he wishes were adopted.
Coming off tournament wins in the Catalina Foothills and Brophy invitationals, respectively, Hamilton boys volleyball coach Jeff Bader spoke about his team’s championship aspirations, winning tournaments and having one division for 65 schools in Arizona.
After only one season as a baseball assistant under current Basha coach Jim Schilling, Kraig Leuschner was hired to run Williams Field’s program before the 2011 season. With 58 combined wins the past three seasons, the Black Hawks are off to a good start again in Division II as they look to make a deep playoff run. Leuschner took a few minutes this week to talk about taking the next step, the brutal early-season schedule and his surprising junior class to go with some already-touted seniors.
Red Mountain baseball coach Ross Pagel took a few minutes this week to discuss the team’s rough start to the season, winning the Gilbert-Mesquite tournament and occasionally seeing his father in the opposing dugout.
Kids were rebelling, and, in the mind of their coach, needed to pay consequences for it. Parents were up-in-arms. Most of those who were disciplined or kicked off the Basha football team left the school for one of its neighbors: Chandler, Hamilton, Williams Field, Perry and others.
Arizona State softball standout Annie Lockwood was barely out of college when she was hired as Skyline’s coach (and special education teacher) last summer. After three coaches in three previous years and 12 wins the previous two seasons combined, the Coyotes are off to their best start in school history at 12-2, including an emotional win of the Marcos de Niza-McClintock tournament last weekend. She took a few minutes this week to talk about the “who” and “why” to the Coyotes’ fast start this season.
There are 67 schools with boys volleyball programs this season in Arizona, and 24 of them will qualify for the state tournament (the top three teams in each of the six sections plus the next six at-large berths based on power rankings).
Chandler: After a 19-20 season last year, the Wolves are already halfway toward that win total this season with 9 seniors on the team and a taste of the postseason in 2012-2013. In addition to Casey at the net, the Wolves have three others at least 6-foot-3 led by Andrew McCall, Jonah Orndorff, Cory Simon and Jon Minetto.
Mesa boys volleyball coach Anthony Millanes took a few minutes this week to talk about winning the Wolf Howl invitational tournament last week, pursuing a state title with a talented, senior-heavy lineup, and the return of a key player from serious injury.
Gilbert Christian girls basketball coach Darryl Young took a few minutes to talk about winning a second state championship in four years after losing a big piece of the puzzle for the year on the first day of the season.
Pick an object: broad side of a barn. The ocean. For whatever reason, the Valley Christian girls basketball team couldn't hit anything beyond the rim with a basketball on Saturday night in the Division III state championship game.
Long after Wells Fargo Arena emptied, a dozen teenagers wearing blue uniforms and reddened faces slowly meandered across the floor a final time this season. One held a video camera while the others talked, looked around at the backdrop in which their season came to an end, and embraced.
Ashlee Moore didn't play in Hamilton's first meeting with Mesquite back in mid-December - a 10-point win for Mesquite - but the Huskies' senior guard played in the Division I quarterfinals on Tuesday night, and helped put the"X-factor" cliche back into truth.
The easy, popular, and most plausible case to be made for the Division I boys basketball champion is, again, Corona del Sol. Everyone will be chasing the Aztecs in this final week of the state tournaments, everyone still playing knows and acknowledges as such, and Corona has proven any number of cases to be made why they can win a third consecutive state title.
During a four-game stretch in early January, Mountain View senior guard Cherokee Davis might have been the best girls basketball player in the East Valley. The 5-foot-3 slasher averaged 31 points per game and shot 55 percent.
It's pretty difficult to go against Seton Catholic in the Division II girls basketball state championship pool. The Sentinels are the No. 1 seed in this year's tournament, have aspirations of permanently forgetting last year's loss in the semifinals, and have been the best team in the division most of the season.