Skyline’s boys basketball team accomplished several feats that had never previously been done in the history of the program.
The Coyotes finished the regular season with their best record ever at 25-2. They won the East Valley Region for the second straight season, this time going undefeated against other Mesa district schools. But most importantly, they finished as the No. 4 seed in the 6A Conference and received an automatic bid to the tournament.
But they still aren’t satisfied.
“Since the loss to Highland, our mindset has been a March Madness mentality,” Capriotti said. “We’ve kind of coined the phrase, ‘it’s win or go home.’ We know we are four games away from making history.”
Skyline finished with one of the best records in 6A, behind only sixth-ranked La Joya, but still finished lower than what many expected.
But the ranking doesn’t matter to the Coyotes. They believe they’re battle tested enough to compete with any of the top teams in the state.
And for good reason.
Skyline started the 2019-20 season with a statement win in the championship of the Coyote Classic over a Cesar Chavez program that was at full strength and regarded as one of the favorites in 6A at the time. A postgame brawl resulted in the suspension of several key players for two games. But Skyline won those, too.
The Coyotes then moved on to the McClintock Holiday Shootout, where they were tested by several championship-caliber program, including Arcadia from the 4A Conference. But once again, the Coyotes prevailed and beat the Titans in an action-packed championship game.
Skyline fell to an up-and-coming Highland team before it moved on to region play, where the Coyotes were dominant against programs that in previous years bullied them off the court. But this year’s team is special. Capriotti knows it, the players know it, the rest of the Skyline community knows it. Now they’re out to prove it to the rest of the state on the biggest stage.
“We know Skyline basketball before our arrival hasn’t been on the map at all,” Capriotti said. “I think there’s a lot of naysayers out there still that think we haven’t played anybody, or we aren’t that good. We won two tournament championships this season.
“We know how to win, and we know what it takes to get through big games.”
Skyline has been led all season by a starting lineup that all averages nearly 10 or more points per game. Northern Arizona bound point guard Dayton Harris has been the unsung leader of the Coyotes for two seasons, averaging a double-double with 16.2 points and 10 assists per game.
Dominic Capriotti, along with Patrick Herrera, follow close behind averaging 13.2 and 13.1 points per game, respectively. Earlier in the season, Herrera, a junior, eclipsed the 1,000-career points mark.
Seniors Tanner Poeschl and Tyree Tyler crash the boards for Skyline on a nightly basis, as both average eight or more rebounds per game. It’s not uncommon to see them link up with Harris or the other guards for open shots along the perimeter or for alley-oops inside the paint.
Skyline will host a Corona del Sol team that is ranked No. 13 in the conference on Wednesday night. But Capriotti and the rest of the Skyline team feel they are ready for whatever challenge awaits them this postseason.
“This team is so special because they are the true definition of a team,” Capriotti said. “They don’t care about their stats or who is going to shine. All they care about is winning the state championship.”
How other schools in Mesa fared this season
Desert Ridge started the season on a tear, going 9-2 in its first 11 games with wins over Highland, Brophy and Gilbert. But the Jaguars lost seven of the next eight games they played before winning three straight to close out the season. At 10-8 in power point games, Desert Ridge was short of receiving an automatic bid to the tournament. The tenth-ranked Jaguars beat No. 23 Shadow Ridge on Friday night and will face No. 7 Chandler on Wednesday.
Mountain View clawed its way back into postseason contention after a rough start to the season. The Toros, under legendary head coach Gary Ernst, finished 9-9 in power point games and are ranked No. 20 in the 6A Conference. Mountain View went on the road Friday to take on a tough Corona del Sol team in the play-in tournament but fell to the Aztecs.
A win over Mesa to close out the regular season was enough for Red Mountain to clinch the final spot in the 6A Conference playoffs. But another tough task awaited the Mountain Lions as they took on ninth-ranked Basha on Friday in the play-in tournament and lost, ending their season.
For the first time since 2012, Mesa’s boys basketball program did not make the postseason. The Jackrabbits ran into a tough stretch of schedule early on, which included games over Highland, La Joya, Corona del Sol, Perry and Hamilton – all playoff teams. Mesa finished 6-13 in power point games and were ranked No. 27 in the 6A Conference, three spots out of the playoffs.
Dobson was unable to get a foothold on the season, as the Mustangs lost five straight power point games to open the year. Dobson finished 3-15 overall and 2-8 in region play, with its only wins having come against Red Mountain and Westwood.
Westwood had flashes of success this season but were unable to scrape out close wins to make the postseason. The Warriors finished 7-12 on the season and No. 29 overall in the 6A Conference.