Friday night was one of firsts for the Desert Vista boys and girls basketball teams when the Thunder clinched 5A Central Region titles in the sport for the first time in school history — on rival Mountain Pointe’s home court no less.
Desert Vista, which first competed for a region title in the 1997-98 season, finally vaulted ahead of the Corona del Sols, Mountain Pointes and Marcos de Nizas which have topped the region since the Thunder came along.
The boys team is coached by Al Merino, whose team reached the 5A semifinals last year. Desert Vista is 6-1 in region and has beaten its closest competitors — Mountain Pointe and Marcos — twice each.
Desert Vista’s girls, under second-year coach Henry Bribiescas, have not lost a game in region play (7-0) with one game remaining Thursday at home against Desert Mountain.
NEW NO. 1 IN BOYS HOOPS
Gilbert (23-2) has taken over the top spot in the latest Tribune 5A boys basketball rankings by winning its last seven and 19 of its last 20.
Also helping the Tigers move up a notch in the rankings was the second loss this season by Tucson Salpointe (23-2), Saturday at Phoenix Brophy. It was the Lancers’ first loss this season to an Arizona school.
Remaining No. 1 in the 5A girls rankings is Highland (27-0), which has gone wire-to-wire in that spot.
LOOKING FOR A RESURGENCE
After watching his team lose some luster in its defensive game for a while, Mountain View coach Gary Ernst hopes it is back for good after two strong wins last week.
The Toros lost a triple-overtime game to Dobson and then struggled against Westwood the same week as they hung on to a share of the East Valley Region lead with the Mustangs. But last week the Toros punished Red Mountain (91-48) and Mesa (58-37), reminding Ernst how his team had performed earlier in January.
‘‘We had a return of our defensive intensity, which was encouraging,’’ Ernst said. ‘‘That had left us for a week or so. Mesa had us down 16-9 after the first quarter (last Friday), but after that we played well on defense, moved the ball around and got some good shots.’’
The Mountain View girls basketball team lost reserve guard Clarissa Tanner to an ankle injury in practice last week. The injury will take up to two months to mend, ending her season. Tanner was averaging seven points a game and is the Toros’ top 3-point shooter, coach Tom Bunger said. Dobson guard Eddie Esquer, bothered by an ankle sprain, returned to action Friday in the Mustangs’ victory over Skyline after missing 1 1/2 games.
WHAT AILS THEM
The Highland girls basketball team is still on cruise control, but only seven players saw action last Friday in the Hawks’ victory over Hamilton due to illness and minor injuries. Coughs and colds have plagued various players since late December.
‘‘We have kids with a croup-type cough that they just can't shake,’’ Highland coach Miner Webster said. ‘‘It’s been with us since we were in San Diego in (late) December. We’ve done about everything we can with antibiotics to fight it, but it won't go away.’’
BEST SCHOOLS IN TANDEM
The top five basketball schools collectively (boys and girls) among local 5A programs by won-loss record currently are Desert Vista 42-8 (.840 winning percentage); Highland 39-10 (.796); Mountain View 40-11 (.784); Gilbert 37-14 (.725); and Mesquite 34-16 (.680). The next four are Dobson 31-17 (.646); Horizon 28-18 (.609); Mesa 31-20 (.608); and Chandler 28-20 (.583).
Just how talented is Marcos de Niza’s wrestling team?
The Padres, who easily won the state title last year and are heavy favorites to repeat at next week’s state tournament, have three wrestlers who have yet to taste defeat this season. Alex Varela (135 pounds), Joey Hooker (145) and Alex Pavlenko (160) all have 36-0 records entering today’s 5A Central Region tournament.
Pavlenko’s unbeaten streak extends beyond this season, as he finished last year’s campaign without a blemish on his record. The last time Pavlenko, a junior, was bested by an opponent was during the state tournament in 2001.
FIESTA SOCCER HONORS
Junior midfielder Jason Cascio of Hamilton and senior midfielder Dan Wallace of Gilbert have been named Fiesta Region offensive and defensive soccer players of the year, respectively. The Fiesta Region champion Huskies hosted Tucson High and the Tigers hosted Ironwood in the opening round of the state tournament on Monday.