'03-'04 Basketball Season Recap-Best & Worst

Clayton breaks down his travels, the best & worst of the 2003-2004 prep basketball season...

Based upon my travels and events I read about, here's the BEST and a few of the worst moments in AZ high school basketball for this past season. I know you have your own lists so please post them on the message board. And please add some categories I missed.

BEST GAME---Deer Valley took an early 17 point lead over Mountain Ridge in the championship game of the Paradise Valley Thanksgiving Tournament only to see "Ridge come back to steal a narrow victory. JD Bittl and Robert Quaintance led the Lion charge. The message boards were buzzing for days in the aftermath.

BEST BACKCOURT---It takes great guard play to win a state championship and Mesa's Lee Cummard and Travis LeBaron served notice last summer they would be a force to contend with. The chemistry between the two has been building for years because they are first cousins. Both players had stellar seasons and are kings of the court.

Trevor Browne's Daren Jordan and Kaleo Kina were every bit as potent, but the supporting Bruin cast was nowhere as near as strong as Mesa's.

BEST FRONTCOURT---When Xavier Kilby, Travis Gabbidon and Johnny Pinto were all on the court at the same time, no front line in AZ was scarier.

Kilby, the state's best defensive big man, along with high-wire magician Gabbidon, and rugged rebounder Pinto was awesome.

BEST FAN CLUB---Shadow Mountain's "Hecklers" easily win here. I mean, who else has their own website?

BIGGEST OVERACHIEVERS---Mountain Pointe had an excellent season considering the "no-name" talent on the club. Coach Sam Ballard and staff did a remarkable job getting the team into the state playoffs.

SADDEST MOMENT---When Tucson's Joe Kay was injured in a late season post game melee it instantly reminded all of us how vulnerable we are. Please continue supporting Joe's courageous recovery.

BEST BIG GAME PERFORMANCE---Gabe Freeman lit Shadow Mountain up for 43 points in the 4A semifinals…………an amazing display of firepower.

MOST DISTURBING MOMENT----When a Chandler parent came onto the floor to challenge a referee during the Desert Mountain game in December, a new low was set for AZ high school basketball. The resulting uprising amongst the Chandler fans caused the police to clear the gym so the rest of the game could be played.

Unfortunately, it didn't stop there. A bulk of Chandler students and a few parents continued their obnoxious behavior all season long wherever they went. Their vulgar, tasteless taunts upon referees, opposing players and fans left an image that will take years to repair.

Seemingly, Chandler High School officials did nothing to corral the unruly behavior and therefore, a whole community is embarrassed.

BEST PROGRAM TURNAROUND---When Chaparral hired Russ McKinstry last spring out of Colorado to run the basketball program the Firebirds hit the jackpot. McKinstry, in one short season, has restored direction to a wayward ship. Look for Chaparral to hang in the 4A Top Ten from now on.

BEST SINGLE GAME PERFORMANCE BY A TEAM---In mid-December, the Chandler Wolves were riding high. Some had them ranked as high as #2. The Wolves had already beaten Trevor Browne, Marcos de Niza, Salpointe, and Paradise Valley.

But on December 15, Chandler traveled to Corona del Sol and was ambushed by an Aztec club that put on a clinic on how to run the 1-3-1 zone defense. Never have I seen this defense run so well. Corona was perfect that night on defense………perfect!

The Aztecs were also in sync on the offensive end too running at will on a befuddled Wolves ball club. Corona won in a rout, 81-61. It wasn't even that close.

SADDEST TO SEE HIM GO---JD Bittl has been a favorite of mine since I saw him light up the Sunnyslope Summer League in 2002. Bittl is an amazing creature and probably belongs in the circus somewhere providing thrills for a living.

JD gave me more bang for my buck than any athlete in a number of years. His offensive repertoire consisted of so many inconceivable acrobatics and stunts I truly can't think of any way to describe them.

Every time I went to see Mountain Ridge play, I knew Bittl would pull something new out of his bag of tricks. Of all the great graduating seniors, JD entertained better than any.

BEST NEW KID ON THE BLOCK---Chandler's Lawrence Westbrook put up breathtaking numbers for a sophomore. Prior to the season, I'd never heard of the muscular guard. Now he's a household name.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT (TEAM)---When you can't give a competitive performance in at least one game all season long…………….and you're known as the worst team in all of Arizona………in any conference…………….and many junior high teams would slaughter you………that's disappointment! Something's is seriously wrong at Sandra Day O'Connor……….and it ain't the name of the school.

MOST THRILLING FINISH --- On December 12, Dobson appeared to have regional foe Mountain View beat leading 50-49 with seven seconds remaining. Toro Brenden McGowan brought the ball up the court on the left side and chucked up a desperation shot at the buzzer from one step inside half court. Swisheroo……….Mtn. View wins, 52-50.

BIGGEST UNDERACHIEVER --- Lots of AZ high school fans wanted to see Trevor Browne in the Final Four and pretty much had taken for granted the formality of such an appearance.

Having watched the Bruins do so well at the ASU Team Camp last summer and considering the tremendous talents of Ty Morrison, Kaleo Kina, and Daren Jordan, I felt it was entirely possible the team could win the state championship.

But an up and down season resulted and when Horizon knocked TB out of the playoffs, all hopes were dashed.

Runnerup: Desert Mountain. The team totally collapsed after a strong early season run.

FUNNIEST CHARACTER ON THE MESSAGE BOARDS ---When "HSball" made his boasts about Mountain Ridge in early January he had the board all fired up. Thanks for the fun times "Hsball." You are a hoot.

Remember the following comment and others like it?

"Everyone seems to think we are going to get killed on Tuesday by # 1 ranked Mesa...So here it is:

Why don't we put it on the line right now. If Ridge beats Mesa, then everyone on this board has to admit that Ridge is # 1! If not, Ridge will accept the Republics and Prepaz's rankings without 1 arguement.

If you don't want to accept this, please don't post after this message. I will consider all posts as accepting the offer!"

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