Bring up his Seton Catholic boys basketball team and coach Hosea Graham gets very defensive.
"We go in with a lot of confidence because we play the best defense of anybody," said Graham, in his seventh season at the helm of the Sentinels. "That’s where it all starts."
Where it all ends, Graham and the Sentinels hope, is with the 3A state championship. The Sentinels advanced to the state semifinals after beating normally high-scoring Hopi 69-51 Saturday in Flagstaff. Seton will play Winslow at 10:15 a.m. Friday at America West Arena. It is the Sentinels’ second appearance in the semifinals in three years.
While Seton played stingy defense against Hopi, it also got some impressive offensive performances. Drew Arnold, a 6-foot-9 center, scored 26 points; Matt Refner, a 6-6 guard who is headed to Northern Arizona University next season, recorded a triple-double: 16 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists; and forward Matt Tibbetts added 14 points.
Graham said having multiple offensive weapons is a luxury.
"All season, it’s been whatever the defense tries to do," Graham said, "we have an answer for. Arnold, if they try to triple-team him, he kicks it out to Refner and Tibbetts."
The Sentinels (27-4) have some impressive victories this season. They beat fellow South Region member Fountain Hills twice and topped Valley Christian, which lost in the 2A state championship Saturday night.
Graham credits it all to the Sentinels’ defense. They have given up 46 points per game while scoring 68.
"Even when we are cold on offense, which doesn’t happen often, our defense takes up the slack," he said.
As for Winslow, Graham expects a tough game.
"They’re a good shooting team," he said. "They’re always a good team. They are well coached and they play hard."