No. 3 St. Mary's vs. No. 6 Hamilton
When: 2 p.m. Saturday
Where: Jobing.com Arena
Records: St. Mary's 29-0, Hamilton 27-6
How they got here: St. Mary's def. Mountain Pointe 74-37; def. Desert Vista 77-39; def. Dobson 61-28. Hamilton def. Centennial 63-43; def. Red Mountain 51-49 (OT); def. Tolleson 60-45; def. Mountain View 52-50.
Last meeting: St. Mary's 74, Hamilton 57 (Dec. 5)
Key Players: St. Mary's: Courtney Ekmark, So., G; Chantel Osahor, Jr., F; Shilpa Tummala, Sr., G; Cortnee Walton, Sr., F; Dominique Williams, Jr. G. Hamilton: Kyndall Adams, Jr., F; Aliyah Dickson, Jr., F; Lauren Evans, Sr., G; Ashley Moore, So., F; Cassidee Ranger, Sr., F.
Outlook: Hamilton has never been to a championship game (they'd never been to a semifinal either until Thursday), but now Jeff Kain's Huskies are the last team standing between St. Mary's going undefeated at winning a second consecutive championship (third overall since 2006), and more widespread labels as being the No. 1 team in the country. Hamilton has earned its place here with a big comeback against a good Red Mountain team in the quarterfinals, then staking itself to a huge lead most of the way against No. 1 Mountain View until the Toros made a mad-dash comeback in the fourth quarter of Thursday's semifinal game, but Hamilton held on. Dobson hung with St. Mary's for one quarter, but that's about it during this state tournament, as the Knights have won their three games by an average of 35 points. In the first meeting, Hamilton hung with St. Mary's after the first quarter, but the Knights outscored Hamilton 38-18 in the middle two quarters to pull away. St. Mary's isn't deep, but its top six in the rotation could play anywhere, its defensive pressure is relentless and the Knights share the ball offensively with inside cuts and outside shooting. Chantel Osahor's size inside, outside shooting and passing abilities make her the most difficult matchup for any opponent as the Knights' instigator. Tummala and Ekmark are top outside shooters, and Tummala, in particular can also get to the basket, while Courtnee Walton as a "sixth man" would be a top-notch forward at most other schools. Can the Huskies handle the constant full-court press and keep themselves under 25 turnovers? Can they make shots when they get the chance, because the margin of error is so slim against St. Mary's? Can they rebound against a bigger team? Can they manage the fatigue and keep themselves together mentally? St. Mary's hasn't lost since a regular season game with Pinnacle in Jan. 2011, 41 games ago.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.