There’s no question the Pinnacle boys basketball team is hotter than anybody in Division I as the state tournament beckons.
The second-ranked Pioneers have won 13 straight games and recently knocked off Brophy, Mesa and Desert Mountain to win the Section III championship.
This time of year, teams certainly would rather be on a hot streak than a cold one.
However, with the advent of the section tournaments, only three of the main Division I state title contenders — Pinnacle, Corona del Sol and Cesar Chavez — enter the playoffs without a loss in its last game.
Momentum is certainly real within a game, as quick scoring spurts can affect an outcome. But do teams with long winning streaks have an advantage heading into the playoffs?
“I don’t know,” Desert Mountain coach Todd Fazio said. “There’s been years where we’ve lost and come back better, and years when we’ve won and got on a roll a little bit. Our next game won’t be for a week so it may be a moot point. Time will tell if it’s a good thing or a bad thing.”
Corona del Sol ended last season on a 30-game winning streak and won the state championship, but this is a chicken-or-egg quandary.
Did the Aztecs continue to win because their confidence skyrocketed, or did victories naturally pile up because of their immense talent?
One of the better arguments for momentum — or lack of it — is the shocking end to Basha’s season a year ago. The Bears started the season 22-4, then lost the regular season finale to Highland, the opening round of the section tournament to Hamilton and a second-round game to Perry.
Basha went from a state title contender to an onlooker in a flash.
On the flip-side is Desert Vista, which lost by 30 to Pinnacle in the section semifinals a year ago but came within four points of making the Division I title game.
Examples can be found for both sides, and it may depend on circumstances. Corona del Sol coach Sam Duane said he felt like momentum helped his team last season but doesn’t think it will play a role this time around.
“With the way the state is this year, it’s going to come down to matchups,” he said.
If anyone would be trumpeting the importance of a winning streak, it would be Pinnacle, but forward Drew Bender doesn’t buy into it, either.
“It doesn’t change a thing,” he said. “We know how we can play.”
Corona, Pinnacle and Chavez made moves up the power rankings by virtue of their section championships.
Gilbert, on the other hand, lost in the first round of its section to drop to the No. 11 seed but has a track record of competing with the best.
The over-riding goal of coaches at this point in the year is to have everyone on the team focused and ready to compete. If the talent and chemistry is also there, the wins will come.
For them, momentum can be debated later.
“Just like any game, we want to win, but we’re more worried about how we play,” Fazio said. “That’s been our theme all year. We want to make sure we go into state playing well.”