A frenetic few weeks of high school basketball action wrapped up on Friday night when Mountain View defeated Brophy for the 5A Division I boys basketball championship in the final game of the year. Throughout the tournaments, there were tremendous individual performances, buzzer beaters and no small amount of controversy. Here’s a look back at some of the most memorable moments from the boys and girls state basketball playoffs:
Toro title: There may not have been a superstar in the bunch, but the Mountain View boys basketball team epitomized a group which had a sum greater than its parts. Each player knew his role, and by the time the state tournament came around, the Toros were a dominant unit. Led by Camyn Boone, Kyle Bingham, Jaren Sweeney and Mark Mazzucco, Mountain View beat each of its four postseason opponents by more than 20 points and captured the program’s first state title since winning three in a row from 2005-07. Mountain View knocked off Brophy, 50-29, in the title game, never leading by fewer than double digits in the second half.
The Jahii show: The Mesa boys basketball team may have lost in the semifinals of the 5A-I tournament, but it was no fault of Jahii Carson. The Arizona State-bound senior guard put on a scoring clinic, dropping 58 points on 25-of-38 from the field but the Jackrabbits still lost 96-82 to Brophy. Carson was closing in on the 5A single-game scoring record of 62 points set by North’s Dennis Dairman in 1960, but he fouled out with 1:35 remaining after pushing off on a drive to the basket. It was the first time Carson advanced to the final four in his high school career.
Third time is the charm: After being denied each of the past two seasons in the 5A-I championship game, St. Mary's went wire-to-wire as the best girls team in the state. The Knights lost once to an Arizona school all season (including tournament games), and won their first championship since 2006 by winning four state tournament games by an average of 25 points. Loaded with skilled shooters, depth and a rattling full-court press, Curtis Ekmark's team went 28-2 and only lose two players from the roster to graduation
Baker and the boys: Behind star guard Jordan Baker, Tempe entered the 4A-II boys basketball tournament as just a No. 7 seed but advanced all the way to the state championship before losing to Tucson Amphitheater. The most memorable game came in the quarterfinals, when the Baker scored on a finger-roll with nine seconds left to lift the Buffaloes to a 59-58 victory over No. 2 seed Phoenix Arcadia, which had already beaten Tempe twice in the regular season. Tempe used a 21-3 fourth quarter run to beat Phoenix Thunderbird in the semifinals for its first title-game appearance since 1990.
No shoes, no problem: A half hour before her team’s state semifinal game, Seton star forward Theresa Wirth realized she forgot her shoes in her car at school. Since the game was being played nearly an hour away in Glendale, there was no time to retrieve them. Before Wirth entered panic-mode, reserve Briana Bricher announced she wore the same size and could use her shoes. Wirth finished the game with 16 points and eight rebounds in a 61-39 win over Cactus, while Bricher had running shoes on when she entered the game for the final few minutes. The Sentinels went on to win the 4A-II championship.
Plus one: It was one of the most bizarre sequences to end a game, let alone a state tournament contest. MacKenzie Bush was fouled and hit one of two free throws with 6.2 seconds left to give the Mountain View girls basketball team a 50-49 lead. Hamilton called timeout and set up a play that needed to go the length of the floor from under its own basket. The Huskies sent two players to the corner on the opposite end of the floor, one person in-bounding the ball and two others near the in-bounds line. Meanwhile, Mountain View inadvertently sent six players onto the floor, and the play began. Normally, that's a technical foul against Mountain View which would have resulted in two Hamilton free throws and possession of the ball. But the whistle never blew, so while Hamilton pushed the ball down for its final shot that ultimately fell short, screaming and wild gesturing ensued over six seconds of 5-on-6 play. The buzzer sounded and the officials left the floor while a throng of people on both sides ran down from the bleachers. There is no instant replay or official monitors (only fans with camcorders), so the Toros advanced to the semifinals and the Huskies were sent home.
The showdown: Mountain Pointe’s boys basketball team saw its best player, Jahii Carson, transfer two seasons ago, but moved on without him and won two straight East Valley Region titles. It faced off with Carson’s new team, Mesa, in the 5A-I quarterfinals for the first time since the transfer, and the Pride had a six-point fourth-quarter lead with less than five minutes to play. But Mountain Pointe senior guard Jerome Garrison went to the bench when the Grand Canyon recruit got into foul trouble and Mesa came back to tie it with three minutes to go. Carson took over from there to send the senior-laden Pride home, 72-66.
Burcar’s blast: Mesa coach Shane Burcar wasn’t happy with the referees assigned to his semifinal game against Brophy, and he made it known after the contest. Burcar was ejected from the game with 1:35 remaining, and later said he specifically asked the Arizona Interscholastic Association to keep the referee crew from working his games. “I think the officiating was personal from the get-go,” Burcar said. “The official tells me the first time I talk to him, he says, ‘Shut up, Shane’. Last year he kicked out Jahii (Carson’s) mother from a game and we requested those officials don’t ref our game. Here they are in a Final Four game. The AIA should be ashamed of itself for putting us in that situation.”
Just short: For the second consecutive year, the Chaparral boys basketball team came excruciatingly close to a state championship. Last season, Zeke Chapman had a shot blocked with three seconds to go as Boulder Creek held on for the one point victory. This year, Chapman couldn’t convert a pair of chances as the end of regulation and the first overtime as the Firebirds fell to Betty Fairfax in double-overtime. Chaparral has never won a state title in boys basketball.
Party in Prescott: The Valley Christian girls and both Gilbert Christian teams had success up north. The Trojans overcame health issues through January, and Scott Timmer's team was rolling again by tournament time when the Trojans won a second consecutive 2A championship at Tim's Toyota Center. Gilbert Christian girls did the same thing in winning a 1A championship earlier that same day. After a controversial coaching change midway through the season, Gilbert Christian's boys nearly defended its 2010 championship, but fell to The Orme School in the title game.