1A Pre-Preseason Top Ten
#1- East Fork Lutheran. Wow! What more needs to be said? The defending 1a East champs return EVERY single player on their roster. The intact starting five is guards Tenijieth, Pusher, Santiago and posts Reisop (6-3) and Lee (6-2). The 1a will be wide open next year, but these guys have to be the favorites based off what they did this year and who they return.
#2- Duncan. Moving down from the 1a after their most succesful season in years (2nd in 2a Copper). Could have the 1a's best PG in McBiles, to go along with potential all region posts Rodriguez (6-1) and Mortenson (6-2).
#3- Fredonia. I called this one two years ago when I saw a Fredonia team loaded with sophs and frosh. A north title is in their reach for the next two year. Johnson (6-4) and Pratt (6-2) will be one of the 1a's best front lines. Guard play will be an early question, but only one or two teams will be able to handle their posts.
#4- Greenfields. Another team I called for greatness two years ago when I saw a team loaded with sophs. This should be the year for them to break St D's strangle hold on the 1a South. Guards Abram and Halbach will be one of the 1a's best tandems. Post Masters (6-2) will be joined by a slew of players 6-2 or taller. With eight sr's, this could be their year.
#5- Joseph City. The champs will be down, but in no means out. Don't be surprised if these guys end up being a top four team when it's all said and done. Bushman (6-1) and McMaster (6-1) provide height and athleticism. Griffith (6-3) takes over at center. A key will be how well Bitsoie takes over PG. If he steps up, JC will go far again.
#6- Fort Thomas. This right here shows how deep the 1a will be next year. This past year was supposed to be the Fort's rebuilding year and next year was supposed to be their contending year. That was before Mike Way stepped up unexpectedly and the Fort took a #2 ranking for most of the year. Next year they bring back three starters and basically their entire bench. Look out for a younger Way brother to emmerge (John) as a premier scoring threat.
#7- Seligman. A team that is traditionally strong, but has suffered through two sub-par seasons. They should be back next year however, as they bring back three of their top four scorers in Alvarado, Delgadillo and Majenty. They will battle with Grand Canyon and St Micheal for the North's final playoff spot.
#8- St David. One of the premier programs in the 1a, St D's was down last year and still went unbeaten in region play and made the final four. They lose main man Fenn, but they return enough key contributers to fall to far. Bryant, Sanders and Armenta all saw big minutes and will be back. Bluth (6-3) and Pollock (6-1) provide height. They will not be much worse than this year, but it will be tougher since the 1a will be so deep next year.
#9- Orme School. I have no idea what they will have, nor does anyone else, until the season starts. The boarding school see's a regular turnover in transfers each year, but each year they have enough quality athletes to compete. This could be a very low ranking for them depending on who enrolls.
#10- Elfrida Valley Union. The school with the highest 1a enrollment finally made some noise this past year. This team again will have solid height, and will rely heavily on 6-3 Barncastle. Three starters graduated, but they will again be a solid club. The only problem is there is no playoff spot to be found as East Fork, Duncan and the Fort have the top three spots on lock.
2002-2003 Surprises: Not much here I didn't call. I had JC going all the way and they did. I said Fredonia would be a top 5 team and they were. I said St Mike and Seligman would battle for the 3rd playoff spot and they did.
2002-2003 Disapointments: I guess Grand Canyon could qualify, although I didn't have much expectations for them. The Az Rep had them ranked #5 for some reason though.
2003-2004: Maybe these guys could swap places with the 2a North next year to make the 2a playoffs a little more competitive. The North will have five very solid teams, but only three will get in. Fredonia should take the crown from JC and Seligman looks to be back to previous form that took them to the finals. Grand Canyon may have been extremely over ranked by the Az Rep this year, but next year they will be very solid. St Micheal will be in a big rebuilding year, and that will mean a .500 record in this deep region.
Region Seeds: #1 Fredonia, #2 JC, #3 Seligman
2002-2003 Surprises: Again, not much to be surprises about. St D's did well, and Greenfields looked like a team that was a year away from contending for a title.
2002-2003 Disapointments: I was surprised how bad the rest of the region was. I though that either Tohono, ASDB or Ajo would emmerge to be at least decent.
2003-2004: The region will again be a two team race, but this time look for Greenfields to run the table. St D's will be down, but don't expect anyone else in the south to beat them. ASDB should bounce back from two sub-par seasons. Tohono and Ajo should continue to improve.
Region Seeds: #1 Greenfields, #2 St David, #3 ASDB
2002-2003 Surprises: Valley Union finally played like a 2a team in the 1a, and qualified for state.
2002-2003 Disapointments: Pima had all the ingredients to make a playoff run but instead stayed home.
2003-2004: From top to bottom, this will be the toughest region in 1a. East Fork Lutheran and Fort Thomas return a lot from top five teams. Duncan moves down from the 2a and will immediately be a playoff team. Valley Union and Pima would be region title contenders in the West and maybe even the South, but both will be staying home in Feb.
Region Seeds: #1 East Fork Lutheran, #2 Duncan, #3 Fort Thomas
2002-2003 Surprises: St Pauls, after years of bad teams, finally stepped up and started to play some good ball. Only an upset loss to PDSD in regionals kept them from making their 1st state appearence.
2002-2003 Disapointments: Salome. They did upset Life at regionals to earn a fluke #1 seed, but I had these guys as a top five team going into the year and they once again got spanked 1st round of state.
2003-2004. Life is gone, but the addition of Orme saves the region. Orme will have no trouble going through here undefeated. Salome, PDSD and St Pauls will battle for the final two spots. Salome loses Carballo, but look for Martinez (6-4) and Kelly (6-3) to be the best low post in the region. PDSD returns Gray, Battle and Grigsby, all good athletes, but absolutely no height. St Pauls loses Rorbeck, the only big offensive threat, but they have back their 6-6 center, who is fast improving.
Region Seeds: #1 Orme, #2 Salome, #3 PDSD
Five Players to Watch at Each Position
#1- McBiles, Duncan
#2- Tenijieth, East Fork Lutheran
#3- Wentzloff, Ash Fork
#4- Halbach, Greenfields
#5- Walker, Grand Canyon
#1- Bushman, Joseph City
#2- Pusher, East Fork Lutheran
#3- Alvarado, Seligman
#4- Grigsby, PDSD
#5- Bryant, St David
#1- Johnson, Fredonia
#2- Masters, Greenfields<