“Nothing compares to this.” Those were a few of the words uttered by Mesa Red Mountain star Kayla Pedersen following her final game in a Mountain Lions uniform.
“This” was the state title Red Mountain had just secured. A reward for knocking off Mesa Mountain View, 46-35 in the 5A Division I girls basketball title game. Pedersen’s focus on that goal was present all the time. And once the games got down to a precious few, the physical part of winning matched the resolve on the court. Thus, Pedersen’s marvelous prep career closed with a title not every standout player her caliber gets.
“It didn’t really sink in until the next day,” Pedersen said. “It was amazing. You open the paper and you see us holding the trophy. All the kids coming up to you at school congratulating you. It was a lot of what I had imagined.”
Pedersen and the Mountain Lions had doubt planted in the their title dreams by two regular-season losses to Mountain View. But their commanding performances vs. the Toros in both the East Valley Region tournament title game and the state championship game washed all that away.
Pedersen still has some high school business to tend to this month. She left Saturday for Louisville, Ky., to play in the McDonald’s All-American game on Wednesday. The day after that she’s off to Cleveland to play in the WBCA prep allstar game March 31 that precedes the NCAA women’s Final Four.
“Winning a championship was essential,” Pedersen said. “That’s what you play for. It was the greatest feeling. So much better than last year.”
That victory also gives Pedersen something to compare notes with when meeting her all-star peers as they prepare for all-star games.
Pedersen’s averages for her senior season were 23.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. She also broke the 5A career scoring record during her senior season, finishing with 2,611 points to better the old mark held by Phoenix Mountain Pointe’s Nicole Powell. Her other final career totals are impressive as well — 125 games played out of 129 possible, 21.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.8 steals and 2.4 blocked shots per game.
Red Mountain coach Martin Appel is planning on following Pedersen to Louisville to complete the four-year run he’s enjoyed watching and coaching her.
“It was really neat for her to go out with the championship,” Appel said. “There have been quite a few other great post players in Arizona recently that didn’t get one. She was determined and such a leader, especially this season.”
Class 5A All-Tribune first team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Kayla Pedersen Red Mtn. Sr. C Avg. 23.8 ppg, went out with state title Ashlee Brown Chandler Sr. F Avg. 24.0 ppg, 11.2 rpg for 5A-I semifinalist Brooke Jackson Mtn. View Sr. G Avg. 19.1 ppg, chosen East Valley Region player of the year Bonnie Barbee Red Mtn. Sr. G Avg. 11.7 ppg, 4.2 apg for 5A-I state champs Katrina Graham Desert Mtn. Sr. G Avg. 18.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg for 5A-II quarterfinalists
Class 5A All-Tribune second team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Alexis Gannis Desert Vista Jr. F Avg. 15 ppg, 6.3 rpg for 5A-I quarterfinalists Sam Murphy Xavier Sr. G Avg. 15 ppg, 4.5 apg for Desert Valley champs Amanda Bartlett Red Mtn. Sr. G Avg. 10 ppg for 5A-I state champs Briana Gholston Marcos Sr. F Avg. 14 ppg as Central Region MVP Davellyn Whyte St. Mary’s So. G Co-region player of year with Murphy Player of the Year: Kayla Pedersen, Red Mountain Coach of the Year: Zon Thompson, Chandler Class 5A honorable mention Basha: Briana Benjamin, G, Jr.; Kayla Oakes, So., G; Chandler: Breanna Arbuckle, F, Jr.; Desert Vista: Kim Randall, G, Jr.; Gilbert: Donielle Cooper, G, Sr.; Hamilton: Brianna Brown, G, Sr.; Highland: Morgan Wohltman, C, So.; Horizon: Chrissy Bertrand, F, Sr.; Marcos de Niza: Joy Burke, F, So.; Mesa: Ashley Gonsalves, G, Sr.; Mesquite: Sam Darley, G, Sr.; Mtn. View: Jennifer Schlott, G, Fr.; Stevie Kamp, F, Jr.; St. Mary’s: Lonnie Sanchez, G, Sr.; Skyline: Erinn Goodman, F, Sr.
Class 1A-4A All-Tribune first team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Amy Patton McClintock So. F Averaged double-double on year (17.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg) Aria Krumwiede Chaparral Jr. G Fiery PG shot 58.6 percent from 3-point range Kristy Krause Pinnacle Sr. G Long-range specialist, scrappy defender Dominique Whitmore Seton Fr. G/F Next great Seton player averaged 10.2 points, 6.6 reb Vanisha Smith Coolidge Sr. G On-floor general for team that went 24-7
Class 1A-4A All-Tribune second team Player School Yr. Pos. Comment
Michelle Berry Pinnacle Sr. F Avg. 14.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg for Pioneers Sam Russell Chaparral Jr. F Avg 13.8 pts, 8.3 rebounds per game Shaya Harrison Tempe Sr. G Averaged 16.1 points per game Stephanie Ekstrand V. Christian Sr. F Led balanced Trojans with 10.3 ppg Kaylan Shank Hor. Honors Sr. F Leading scorer in Metro with 18.1 ppg Player of the Year: Amy Patton, McClintock Coach of the Year: Jackie Van Patten, Pinnacle Class 1A-4A honorable mention Arcadia: Lexi Moody, G, Jr.; Cactus Shadows: Rachael Stevens, F, Sr., Sara Pages, G, Sr.; Chaparral: Clarke Erickson, F, Sr.; Coolidge: Megan Moss, Sr., C; Chantel Moss, So., F.; Horizon Honors: Anne Ellenberger, Jr., C.; McClintock: Stefanee Perez, G, Sr.; Pinnacle: Kirstyn Shaw, So., G,; Saguaro: Meagan Haugo, F, Sr.; Salt River: Brianna Grignon, So., F.; Scottsdale Christian: Anne Munsil, Jr., F.; Seton: Nikki Magnus, Sr., G; Marilyn Roy, So., G.; Surrey Garden: Jenna Pearson, Fr., C.; Tempe Prep: Liberty Brittain, Jr., G; Rachel Knebelsberger, Sr., F.; Valley Christian: Shamesha Smith, Sr., F; Kim Wigboldy, Sr., C; Shannnon Brown, Sr., G.
MEMORABLE MOMENTS FROM THE 2006-07 SEASON
Red Mountain’s first title: Everybody’s preseason favorite to win the 5A-I title, Mesa Red Mountain, had an air of complacency prior to the hoop calendar turning from 2006 to 2007. Two losses to East Valley Region rival Mesa Mountain View in January got the Mountain Lions’ attention, however. After a Jan. 26 loss to Mountain View, the Mountain Lions closed the season with 11 straight wins and won the title they fell a win short of the year before. It was a nice send-off for four-year standout Kayla Pedersen, who is Stanford-bound. And a nice one as well for the rest of the Lions’ starting lineup (Bonnie Barbee, Amanda Bartlett, McKenzie Crum and Jaci Bendure Birt) that combined to rebound from the 2006 title-game loss to Phoenix St. Mary’s.
Gator revival: Phoenix Xavier is known for its golf, swimming and tennis state championships, but until Jennifer Gillom arrived a couple years ago, basketball was an afterthought. That’s changing. The Gators won their first Desert Valley Region title, going undefeated in region games. Xavier lost to Chandler Basha in the first round of the state tournament, but most of the roster returns and Gillom is excited about a couple of incoming players, so the Gators could stay relevant for several more years.
Another renaissance: Much like Xavier, Tempe Marcos de Niza enjoyed a basketball renaissance this year. Led by Central Region coach of the year Toby Greer and player of the year Briana Gholston, the Padres won 21 games, including a 6-2 record in the region against 5A-I teams. The Padres reached the state quarterfinals before losing to eventual state champion Tolleson, which left Marcos one victory shy of the school record. Pinnacle’s wild run: Pinnacle wasn’t even a topthree seed in its region tournament and no one expected much from it at state. But the Pioneers took on the ultra-confident demeanor of coach Jackie Van Patten — who guaranteed a win over top-seeded Scottsdale Chaparral in the second round — and ran with it all the way to the title game. Glendale Cactus ultimately had too much size to overcome, but the Pioneers hung around long enough to give them a scare.
Aria’s ankle: Chaparral star point guard Aria Krumwiede rolled an ankle in late January, and with her injury came some tense moments for the Firebirds. But the rest of the team did more than just hold down the fort, beating second-ranked Tempe McClintock without its leading scorer to help gain the top seed going into the state tournament. Krumwiede returned in time for the tournament, but Chaparral’s run ended when Pinnacle employed a box-and-one defense on her and a late rally fell short.
Rise of the Bears: Seton Catholic has reigned in whatever region it was in the past 12 years, but the Coolidge girls were queens of the South this year. The two teams shared the regular-season region title (which ran Seton’s streak to 12 straight region titles), but the Bears got the last laugh in the region tournament with a 54-53 win.
Eagles in the finals: Salt River endured a tumultuous season in which it had to forfeit 12 games and finished the season with a losing record (15-18). But the Eagles, behind the shooting of sophomore Brianne Grignon and junior Shannon Stealy, made it all the way to the 1A title game before losing to Fredonia.