The wait is finally over. Thank Goodness. Sure the tournaments are fun, teams
getting to travel out of division and out of state, but as the regular season
gets going again the excitement is in the air, because we get to start it off
the right way.
#1 Highland @ #3 Mesa
At Keith Jackson might say, "Whoa Nelly!"
Highland is unblemished in the state, Mesa's dropped three.
Some have claimed Highland hasn't been tested, Mesa is just now getting all their weapons at full strength.
Ryan McCurdy might be the best big man in the state.
Lee Cummard might be the best player.
This one means almost nothing; both teams will be seeded highly in the state tournament, and in fact this might be a preview of the finals or semi-finals at AWA. Ask the players and coaches and they'll all tell you, "It's just like any other game."
Ask any of their fans and you'll probably just get a look. "Sure," that look will tell you, "maybe it is just like any other game, and I've got some beach front property I'd like you to look at in Gilbert."
This one means everything. A chance to start your championship run, a way to make a statement to start the New Year. Well rested, well fed, healthy. Both teams have to be chomping at the bit; both have to be itching.
This may not be for all the marbles, but for the first time this season the marbles are going to be on display. My guess, neither coach holds back. With Mesa finally getting Graham Hatch back at full strength, and with a couple weeks of practice to get him back in basketball strength, this is Mesa's chance to remind everyone that they were the #2 ranked team in the state back in November (and #1 was Desert Vista, so by now they should be default #1). For Highland, this is a chance to put the skeptics to bed. A chance to match up against the best, away from home no less, and separate them from the other semi-surprise to emerge and then fall, Chandler.
It will, as it often has of late for Mesa, boil down not to Cummard or Hatch or Travis LeBaron, but to Matt Komenda, the big-bodied junior. He'll give up somewhere between three and five inches to McCurdy inside (somebody tie Komenda down and get a tape measure on him, his height gets listed all over the place), but his strength and defensive savvy could give McCurdy fits. Without at least the threat of McCurdy going off Highland becomes a very beatable team, their matchup with Desert Vista on December 11th showed that much.
For Highland it is all about balance. Neither McCurdy nor McCormick can do it alone, they have to help each other, and get someone else to step up. Too many scorers on the other side of the floor to have a two man team here.
This one should be a battle royal, and PrepAZ will have the Iceman out there, soaking in the joys of a brand new basketball year. Look for his update first thing Wednesday morning.