The defending state champion Ironwood Ridge boys’ basketball team is one step closer on its pursuit of another title.

Despite six points from usually dominant 6-11 center Brandon Duliakis, the Nighthawks (22-4) defeated Rincon / University 67-44 on Saturday to become 5A-II Southern region champions.

“That was big,” said senior guard Sean Ham. “Regionals are always an accomplishment.”

“Of course, state is bigger,” Ham added with a smile.

Ham said the Nighthawks will plan for state the same way they did for regionals.

“Our coach always tells us ‘You don’t have to do anything unusual or special,’” said Ham. “Just a basic, solid game plan.”

“We’ll just focus on one game at a time,” said Ham.

Ham also thinks Peabody will be ready for each opponent. “He always has good scouts on teams,” said Ham.

Ironwood Ridge is getting ready for a 7 p.m. Thursday home game against #16-seed Scottsdale Horizon (12-13) as the first round of 5A-II state playoffs begin.

Girls’ basketball

The Ironwood Ridge girls’ basketball team (10-11) lost to Rincon/University on Friday 43-32 in the 5A-II girls’ regional championship. The #14-seed Nighthawks will visit #3-seed Surprise Valley Vista at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the first round of state tournament play.

All-region basketball players

4A-I Sonoran

First Team:

Seth Wilson, Marana

Second team:

Josh Lewis, Canyon Del Oro

Rodney Clark, Canyon Del Oro

Kurt Liscum, Marana

Honorable mention:

Canyon del Oro: Jason McBrayer, Kadeem Carey, Hal Montoya-Ijams

Marana: Lance Strand, Keaton Brown

5A-II Southern:

Player of the Year: Aaron Anderson, Mountain View

First team:

Brandon Duliakis, Ironwood Ridge

Lawrence Hampton, Ironwood Ridge

Chad Carter, Ironwood Ridge

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