Skyline Gila River High School’s new campus hasn’t even been for an entire school year, yet there have already been several life-long memories made in south Chandler.
“I feel like everything has now finally come full circle,” said Daveda Taylor, who has been with the school for 9 years and the head girls basketball coach for 5. “Just preaching hard work, dedication, teamwork, and at the end to be able to hold the trophy, it feels really good. And to do it in a new building, it’s awesome.”
The Skyline girls basketball program, which competes in Division II of the Canyon Athletic Association, won its first-ever state title on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Talking Stick Resort Arena, the home of the Phoenix Suns.
The Mustangs dominated rival Salt River performing up to the expectations that came with clinching the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Led by senior forward Sequoia Lucero’s 17 points, 13 rebounds and six blocks, Skyline quickly built a large lead Salt River was unable to overcome.
The Mustangs went on to win 63-40. Lucero was named Division II Most Valuable Player.
“It felt really good,” Lucero said. “Everyone was running up to us, jumping on us, cheering with us, it just felt really good knowing that we did that. We had a lot of support there and we had a good coach to coach us through it all. Leaving high school with a championship makes it even better.”
Lucero was just one of three seniors on the Skyline roster this season, which also included three players in eighth grade. She was one of the key players all season long, helping lead the Mustangs to success on a nightly basis.
Her accolades throughout her career at Skyline earned her an opportunity to continue her basketball career at Benedictine University in Mesa. Her teammate, senior guard Angelica Ulate, also signed with Benedictine.
“I’m a little nervous,” Lucero said. “I don’t really think I’m that good but I’m ready to learn how to play higher ball.”
Cathauli Morris was also key to Skyline’s championship win, as she scored 12 points.
Taylor anticipates Morris to be one of the returning juniors to take over for the three departing seniors as leaders next season. As of right now, it’s hard for Morris to fathom the responsibilities that will be placed upon her when she’s a senior.
But it’s a role she knows she will be able to thrive in while chasing back-to-back championships.
“The seniors are leaving and I know I need to step up,” Morris said. “(The seniors) mean a lot to me. They would always help me out and show me support. They were always there for me.”
Skyline’s new campus was opened just ahead of the 2019-20 school year. Located on the southeast corner of Arizona Avenue and Riggs Road, athletic director Jeremy Basham said there was speculation the school wasn’t going to be done in time for its nearly 250 students to attend the first day of class.
Previously located just outside of Maricopa in Bapchule, Ariz. on the reservation, Skyline charters several buses every day for students who decided to stay enrolled at the school despite its move. There were some, however, who decided to attend other schools, which dropped Skyline’s enrollment.
The building is outfitted with gym capable of hosting all students and parents for athletic events and assemblies. That’s where the entire student body flocked to on Thursday, Feb. 27, two days after winning the championship. The entire team entered the gym to cheers from their peers. They were presented with a certificate from the City of Chandler during the ceremony.
Additionally, the school’s first-ever state-championship banner was unveiled, followed by cheers, hugs and even some tears from Mustang players. And as is seen following both college and professional basketball title games, every player climbed a ladder to cut a piece of the net from the basket.
“I’m just so excited these players had a chance to win a state title,” Taylor said. “We’ve been so close. Last year we went to the semis, the year before that we went to the championship game and lost.
“We’ve been inching up, just trying to get there and finally we got it.”