February 22, 2005
The Mountain View High School boys basketball team fell a notch from the 5A mostwanted list when it suffered its first loss of the season Friday. Still, the Toros are a soughtafter quarry.
The defending state champion Phoenix St. Mary’s girls basketball team began the season as the hunted. The Knights continue to elude predators.
Their quests to win 2005 state championships continue tonight with first-round play in the state tournament. Both are No. 1 seeds in their respective state brackets, which were finalized on Sunday. They’ve occupied those perches nearly from the start.
Mountain View had the state’s longest winning streak this season, 27 games, before Dobson ended it, 54-49, on Friday in the East Valley Region tournament final.
Mountain View coach Gary Ernst wasn’t too disheartened by the loss. In fact, he found an omen perhaps the Toros can emulate.
‘‘It worked for Mesa last season,’’ Ernst said of the Jackrabbits, who lost in the East Valley Region final before going on to win state. ‘‘We’ve not shot real well the last few games. Our confidence is down a little. We just need to relax a little bit and get back to where we were offensively a couple weeks ago.’’
Mountain View has shot in the low 40-percent range from the field in its last two games, which isn’t bad for most teams. But the Toros connected at a 52-percent clip for the season so they’ve felt the drop-off. On many occasions this season Mountain View has been spectacular. The Toros are tough to defend; their top six players average between six and 15 points per game.
The other hot boys teams are Glendale Deer Valley, which lost its only game in December to Marcos de Niza in the Horizon Invitational, and Dobson.
The Skyhawks are in Mountain View’s half of the bracket along with Hamilton and Mountain Pointe.
The Mustangs are on the best roll of those teams in the bottom of the bracket. They have knocked off Mesa twice this season and with their win over Mountain View (after being blown out twice earlier) are confident heading into the tournament.
Mesa has struggled the last two weeks. Phoenix St. Mary’s and Mesquite, fresh off region tournament victories, are also playing well.
On the girls side, St. Mary’s is 24-4, yet unbeaten in a sense. No Arizona opponent has beaten the Knights since Tucson Salpointe knocked them off in the 2003 semifinals. St. Mary’s has won its last 17 games after losing four of six in two national tournaments during the holidays.
Despite St. Mary’s roll the last two months, Highland coach Miner Webster thinks a window of opportunity exists for many schools.
‘‘I really think there are 10 to 12 teams out there, and if one gets hot they can win it this year more than any other year I can remember,’’ Webster said.
Fifteen of the top 19 teams in the final power rankings have beaten at least one team in the top 10 during the season. And St. Mary’s was tested by three East Valley teams just behind them in the power rankings — No. 2 Desert Vista, No. 3 Highland and No. 6 Corona del Sol — early on. St. Mary’s edged Highland and Corona in overtime and didn’t put Desert Vista away until late. Those contests were played in late November and early December. The only other teams that have given the Knights a decent game are Desert Valley Region
rivals Horizon and Phoenix Xavier.