McClintock hasn’t been around a state tournament final four since 1986. Saguaro has been in the last two 4A state tournament semifinals and made it to last year’s final before being edged by Phoenix Thunderbird.
Yes, on the surface, there is quite a contrast between two of the four teams still alive in the 4A boys state basketball tournament.
Yet, it has seemed all season that McClintock and Saguaro have been on course for a collision in Saturday night’s championship game. Tonight, we’ll learn if that collision will occur.
Saguaro faces Goodyear Millennium in the semifinals at America West Arena at 5:15 p.m ., while top-ranked McClintock has to wait until 8:45 p.m. when it will take on Phoenix Shadow Mountain.
A year ago, McClintock (25-3) also entered the state tournament ranked No. 1 but fell in the first round. With virtually the same team back this year, the Chargers have thought all season about completing what they started a year ago — winning a state title.
"It is unfinished business," coach Brian Fleming said. "That’s the position that we’ve strived to put ourselves in.
"The hardest thing is going to be to get out of your minds that you’re just happy to be there. We want more than just being there."
McClintock point guard Jermaine Calvin said that won’t be a problem.
"Now we have to do something with it," said Calvin, who is headed to Utah next season. "Let’s not do all this hard work just to get there."
Forward Gabe Freeman said it is important that the Chargers don’t get caught up in all the hoopla tonight.
"It’s like a normal game," said Freeman. "I’m not going to change anything. We want to win. We’re going to play tough."
Saguaro coach Bob LaRue hopes his team’s recent appearances in the final four will pay dividends tonight.
"I hope that we don’t have the deer in the headlights syndrome because we have been there twice," said LaRue. "I’ve got to think it’s going to help."
After a slow start, Saguaro (23-5) seems to be playing its best ball at the right time.
"We’re coming around," said LaRue. "I think our defensive intensity is where it needs to be. Offensively, we’re starting to get some chemistry down. We still haven’t played on all cylinders yet."
Forward Justin Ashbaugh said the Sabercats aren’t peeking ahead to the championship.
"We’re taking one game at a time," said Ashbaugh. "We have to take care of Millennium first."
That doesn’t mean the Sabercats aren’t interested in coming away this time with a state title.
"We need to have something to walk away with," said Saguaro guard Danny O’Boyle. "That’s what we’re fighting for."