It’s now to the unofficial second half of the boys basketball season, with high school teams from across the state returning to the hardwood through the week.
There was a plethora of highlight performances in the first part of the season, including several teams and players standing out in a crowded fray. It will be interesting to see which teams keep their momentum entering sectional play, and which teams fall back into the pack.
Without further ado, here are the players that stood out the most to me in the first part of the regular season:
3. Jared Clark: Pusch Ridge Christian Academy senior guard
Stats: 17.4 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game
Clark has been a catalyst for the Lions, who have taken 3A by storm this season, en route to a 12-2 record. The senior guard leads all scorers on the stacked roster, averaging 17.4 points per game to pace a high-powered Lions offense that also features do-it-all center Lucas Elliott, who’s having a stellar senior season himself, with 14.5 points and 9.9 rebounds per game this year. The Lions appear to be a bona fide state title contender in 3A, with a two-headed offensive juggernaut that’s unmatched in their section.
2. Julian Molina: Mountain View senior guard
Stats: 20.1 points per game (no information for rebounds and assists per game)
Molina is the best pure scorer in Southern Arizona, aside from Salpointe Catholic guard Evan Nelson. The senior has torched opposing defenses all year long, cracking 20 points in all but two of the Lions’ first 16 contests. Molina is a natural scorer, with a three-year average of 17.0 points per game in 44 games played at the northside high school. The Lions will only go as far as the wily guard can carry them, so expect Molina to continue lighting up opposing defenses all season long. This young man is worth the ticket price by himself, with an offensive touch that longtime coach Corey Duck has honed during the pair’s time together.
1. Carson James: Catalina Foothills senior guard
Stats: 22.7 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game, 4.1 assists per game
James is probably the best all-around guard in the city, pacing a high-flying Falcons offense that has walked through opponents for much of the past few years. James, who has committed to play college basketball at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has a unique combination of smarts, speed and touch to torch opponents, while always having an eye on his teammates, allowing him to spread the court like few others at the high school level. The Falcons, who are 8-4 this season, have a youthful core surrounding the talented guard. Expect James and the Falcons to once again challenge Salpointe Catholic for the 4A Kino title, with a balanced offense and hard-pressing defense that gives opponents fits for 32 minutes of game action.
Erik Cochran: Ironwood Ridge forward
Stats: 15.7 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game
Lucas Elliott: Pusch Ridge Christian Academy center
Stats: 14.5 points per game, 9.9 rebounds per game)