3A PRE-PRESEASON TOP TEN
1- Seton Catholic. With four guys that saw time starting last year back, Seton has a bulls-eye on their backs. Guards Baker and Tibbetts (6-2), along with forwards Wolf (6-2) and Refner (6-5), but Seton in the early drivers seat. Seton will have a veteran ball club as 8-10 players that suit up will be seniors.
2- Holbrook. Return three starters, but two of which are their best players in guards Greer and Castillo. These two alone should be good for 40 points a game. Starting center Perkins (6-4) is back too. Already the 3a East favorites, if they find another big man, they could push for a title.
3- Fountain Hills. Had somewhat of an off year (for their standards), but return three starters next year. Posts Vipperman and Goldberg will both go between 6-4 and 6-6 next year. Guard Ort (6-1) scored 14 ppg as a frosh last year. Plus, with Fnt Hills enrollment tetering on 4a, there is always enough athletes to fill any roster holes.
4- Greyhills. Won the North during the season, only to lose a heartbreaker to MV in regionals. Three of five starters come back. They return all region players the Gishie brothers, and two other main contributers in Ruybal and Marcus. Height will once again be a problem (perhaps even more so), but they return enough quickness and shooters to push for a region crown.
5- Chino Valley. Lose two of their top three scorers, but return 6-4 post Lewis and two other starters. Height will not be a problem, and guard play, which held them back this past year, figures to be improved. Chino will have a veteran club and lose only three players.
6- Rio Rico. This could be a conservative ranking for Rio, who is coming off their most succesful season in years. Rio will be big up front, with Lopez (6-1), Pou (6-2), Mendoza (6-5) and Hutzel (6-3). With another year of growing expect a potential front line that stands 6-6, 6-4, 6-2 across. They did lose most of their backcourt, but if their JV and freshman squads are as good as advertised, they could push Seton for the region title.
7- Monument Valley. A team that is always there in the end. Won another regional, and made yet another AWA. This year's team will have a tougher time, but return a terrific PG in Delmar. He could be the best on the Rez. MV will have a veteran dominated group, as about 3/4 of the roster will be seniors. Posts Cowboy, Baker and Todecheene (all 6-2 and taller), give MV rare Rez height depth.
8- Coolidge. Didn't make the playoffs for the 1st time in a while, but return four starters next year. Will have a serious lack of height however, especially if the 6-1 White is their center. From what I saw this year, the starting lineup will be Felix, Palacios, White, Crawford and Rushing. They will be athletic, but how many guards/wings can they get away with on the floor against taller teams like Seton, Safford and Rio? Maybe they can employ a Rez style game plan to turn the tables on their taller opponents.
9- Tuba City. Will have a new coach, but the cupboard isn't completely bare. Two players that I believe will have breakout years will be back. Wing Tsingine (6-4) could become a Dugi type player. I was impressed with his athleticism at state, but he seemed too hesitant and always deferred to Dugi. The burden on scoring will now fall on him, and he has a nice all around game. Post Brown (6-3) was a playoff hero, stepping up big at state. He showed great range on his jumper, and his free throws to beat Sedona will be part of Tuba lore. Guard play will be a early question, but TC is a traditional power and kids tryout for the team in droves.
10- Sedona Red Rock. These guys were wiped out by graduation. They lose their top three scorers, and four starters. So why are they ranked? I belive they have the makings of a dominant front line with Johns (6-8) and Schupack (6-4). Its no stretch to think that Johns will be 6-9 and Schupack 6-6. Plus they had a solid JV team.
Others- Safford (return Burney, but that's it), Santa Cruz (Harris will be a monster), Show Low (young squad last year), Sahuarita (all five starters back),
2002-2003 Surprises: Round Valley was given no shot, but shocked everyone by making state in regionals after only winning two games during the season.
2002-2003 Disapointments: I thought Alchesay would have been closer to their previous glory in Lupe's sr year.
2003-2004: The region will be revamped, as Holbrook enters as Payson leaves. From what I hear, the east now only gets three playoff bids due to the new regions. Holbrook becomes the immediate favorites for the region title. They will face some competition from Show Low, who brings back Frost, Wortman, Slone, Pringle, Rova, and Permar (amongst others). SL will have height up front with no one standing under 6-2. Blue Ridge will also have some big boys. I saw Reisner and Williams play on varsity 2 years ago as underclassmen. They could stand between 6-5 and 6-8 by next year. RV made a surprise appearence at state, and they return star guard Hamblin and two 6-4 posts. Depth will be a big concern though. Alchesay returned to state, but lost their main man Lupe. They will need someone to step up of they could be left out.
Region Seeds: #1 Holbrook, #2 Show Low, #3 Blue Ridge
2002-2003 Surprises: Greyhills was picked by most (me) to be a playoff team, but I'm not sure anyone picked them to win the region.
2002-2003 Disapointments: Tuba's postseason run saved them here. Many thought (me) that this would be Ganado's year to make state, but again they failed.
2003-2004: From what I hear, the north still gets 4 playoff bids. Pinon moves back, Holbrook moves to the east. The north proved again to be the dominant region as they advanced 3 teams to AWA. On paper, most of the traditional powers appear to be down, but I would never count any of these teams out. They have proved time and time again that they are never in rebuilding mode, just reloading. It is easy to predict Greyhills, MN and TC as playoff teams, but I believe that this could finally be Window Rock's year to return to state. They return a good nucleus from last year. You have to figure that Winslow will be there to in the end. Ganado had their chance this year, but once again, couldn't make state.
Region Seeds: #1 Greyhills, #2 Monument Valley, #3 Tuba City, #4 Window Rock (will be a surprise team!)
2002-2003 Surprises: Rio Rico. One of the surprise stories of the year.
2002-2003 Disapointments: Coolidge. First time not at state since ????
2003-2004: The south is split into two regions, which should make for some strange playoff seedings. I hear that a total of 6 playoff teams will come from the south's regions. Both regions look strong, but Region 1 is killer. It will have Coolidge, Seton, Fountain Hills, emmerging Higley and Queen Creek, and new-comer Estrella Foothills. I don't see a weak team in the bunch and Seton and Fountain Hills can renew their old 3a west rivalry. Region 2 has Rio Rico, Safford, and two teams with potential, Santa Cruz and Sahuarita. yes, I say Sahuarita has potential because they return almost their entire team.
Region Seeds: Region 1- #1 Seton, #2 Fountain Hills, #3 Coolidge
Region 2- #1 Rio Rico, #2 Safford, #3 Eloy Santa Cruz
2002-2003 Surprises: Chino Valley. No one picked them to be ranked, they peaked as high as #7 on my polls.
2002-2003 Disapointments: Its hard to call Fountain Hill's season a disapointment, but they failed to live up to high expectations. It doesn't matter, since they have moved to the 3a South.
2003-2004: The region loses some key teams in Fnt Hills and Higley. The region will be weakened, but it will not be felt at state since they only get 3 playoff teams in anyway. Chino and Sedona will be 100% givens. The 3rd playoff team will be hard to determine. Wickenburg went through a rebuilding year after 3 super strong years in a row. The young Quorri may be enough to get them in state, but he won't stop them from going one and done.
Region Seeds: #1 Chino Valley, #2 Sedona, #3 Wickenburg
Five To Watch at Each Position:
1- Delmar, Monument Valley
2- Greer, Holbrook
3- Schjang, Hopi
4- Ort, Fountain Hills
5- Hamblin, Round Valley
1- Refner, Seton
2- Tsingine, Tuba City
3- Belarde, Higley
4- White, Coolidge
5- Karnbach, River Valley
1- Barney, Safford
2- Harris, Eloy Santa Cruz
3- Lewis, Chino Valley
4- Wolf, Seton
5- Johns, Sedona