Until recently, postseason football has been garnering most of the headlines.
It’s prep basketball’s turn now. Invitational tournaments have been played, and the Northwest’s hoops squads are moving into divisional and rivalry matchups.
As cooler weather sets in, it is our pleasure to move into warm gyms and give an update on what local squads have been up to so far, and what might happen the rest of the season.
Last year was the most successful in Ironwood Ridge history.
The Nighthawks finished 27-6, outdistancing division opponents for the 5A-II Southern crown, then were dominant in the playoffs, going on to win the state championship with a 61-51 victory over Tempe Marcos De Niza.
How does Ironwood Ridge follow its storybook season? To date, by making the 2008 season look like a carbon copy.
Ironwood Ridge is 8-1, the only loss coming to #3 Phoenix North on Dec. 4. In that game the Nighthawks trailed by 19 points in the fourth quarter before storming back with a rally that fell just short, losing 55-52.
Aside from the close loss, Ironwood Ridge has been dominant in 2008, outscoring opponents 587-423.
Much of the offensive firepower comes from a pair of seniors, 6-11, 215-pound center Brandon Duliakis and forward Chad Carter, as well as junior point guard Lawrence Hampton.
Duliakis is averaging 15.7 points per game, good enough for third in 5A Southern. He also ranks second in rebounds with 9.3 per game.
Carter has been on fire this season, increasing his offensive role from last season to average14.6 points per game.
Sophomore Tyler D’Amore, also the quarterback on the Nighthawks’ division champ football team, lends a hand from behind the stripe, shooting for three 3-point goals per game, tops in the division.
Hampton provides a well-rounded complement to the big men, leading the division in assists with 7.6 per game, and on the defensive side of the court with 4.3 steals per contest.
The defense has also benefited from the stifling play of senior guard Sean O’Keefe, who ranks just behind Hampton with 3.6 per game.
Canyon Del Oro
The 2007 Dorados had a banner season, winning the 4A Sonoran Divison championship, finishing #12 in the state with a 18-8 record, and advancing to the playoffs before losing to Scottsdale Saguaro in the quarterfinals.
This season has been less kind to date.
After winning their season opener against Cholla 73-41, the Dorados have been unable to find a rhythm, losing five straight before beating Sahuaro 57-52 on Dec.11.
The comforts of home court advantage have been lost on CDO this season as well, as the Dorados have gone 0-3 in their own gym, including a 73-57 loss to rival and defending 5A-II state champ Ironwood Ridge.
The good news for the Dorados – their next five opponents have a 16-13 record, with most of those wins coming from 5A-I #2 Chandler.
More positives: junior Josh Robbins has lent the team a quick presence in the backcourt, and Josh Lewis has routinely scored more than 20 points.
The Tigers had a rough season a year ago, going 5-23 and finishing second to last in the 4A Sonoran Division, narrowly missing out on last place to one-win Cholla.
The Tigers are 1-7 thus far.
Marana can focus on one bright spot: the play of 6-4 senior forward Seth Wilson. Wilson leads the 4A Sonoran in scoring, averaging a whopping 22 points per game, and is second in rebounds with 7.1 per game.
Despite Wilson’s efforts, the Tigers have a tough road ahead. Division opponents Catalina Foothills and Pueblo are both ranked in the top 12 statewide, and CDO is dangerous despite a slow start.
The Mountain Lions might wish they had a time machine.
After a 16-15 2007 season, Mountain View is winless so far in 2008.
“Our 0-10 record right now isn’t where I imagined us to be right now before Christmas,” said head coach Mike Parillo.
Also frustrating for the Mountain Lions: a large number of close losses, including a three-game stretch during which Mountain View lost by a combined nine points.
“We have had so many close games up to this point,” said Parillo.
Tight games aside, Parillo says his team is not disheartened. “The team is still keeping a positive attitude and continuing to work hard.”
Aaron Anderson knows something about working hard. The senior forward is leading the 5A-II Southern in scoring with 18.3 points per game, and is tough on the boards as well, pulling down 12.6 rebounds.
Anderson’s dominance might be one of the reasons Parillo maintains a positive outlook on the rest of the season.
“(The team) will get over the hump if they continue to work hard and believe,” said Parillo. “We have great kids that care about each other and want to improve.”
The 2008 Pusch Ridge team is pretty offensive.
The 5-5 Lions boast three of the top five scorers in the 2A South. Junior guard Trevor Cook is tops in the division with 13.9 points per game, senior forward Kyle Kirkwood hits 10.8 a game and junior guard Greg Schimke is averaging 9.2.
Under the glass, Lions’ rebounders have been dominant, ranking 1-5 in the division, with senior forward Jake Hlebain pulling down 6.6 balls per game to lead. Kirkwood, in second place, has 5.7 per game, with Schimke, Cook and junior forward Mike Vos contributing.
Despite outdistancing the rest of the league statistically, the Lions have struggled to stay above .500, losing to rivals Northwest Christian and Valley Christian in the first two weeks of the season.
Pusch Ridge is undefeated in conference play, however, currently second behind 9-2 Ray.
A Dec. 19 showdown between the Lions and the Bearcats will give insight into the likely contender for the 2A South championship.