At heart Trevor Neider is a teacher.
Yes, he spends his afternoons and evenings with the Mountain Pointe girls basketball team, but his weekdays are in the classroom for health weight training and advanced physical education.
So he took the opportunity last winter to do both when the Pride was set to play the nation’s top team, Phoenix St. Mary’s, in the second round of the state tournament.
It ended in a 74-37 loss, but it also opened the players’ minds.
“I told them to go have fun,” Neider said. “We weren’t accepting a loss before we played, but we knew we were going to need to play at a very high level and they were considered the nation’s best. I wanted them to see what it takes to play at that level. A lot of our players want to play in college and they were basically a college team.”
It pushed the Pride players who returned for this season hungry to take the Mountain Pointe program to a new level. The program has been good, winning 20 games four straight years, but has had troubles in the postseason.
The Pride will get another shot at the postseason next when the eight-team sectionals tournament — Feb. 5 for girls, Feb. 6 for boys — starts before the 24-team state tournament begins on Feb. 13.
And the players are not up for another postseason bust, getting out of the first round just once over the last three seasons.
“We want other teams to think of Mountain Pointe like we thought of St. Mary’s,” senior Ashley Clubb said. “We’ve had a great year but we need to show how good we really are.”
The Pride (21-4 overall, 15-1 in seeding games) began the week as the top seed in the Division I, Section III tournament with games at Desert Vista on Wednesday and Gilbert at home on Friday left.
The Thunder girls have had a crazy season so how the postseason plays out under new coach J’Ontar Coleman is one of the more intriguing stories in DI.
Desert Vista (16-8, 9-6) began the week No. 4 in the sectionals rankings with a game against No. 3 Xavier on Monday night (past this edition’s deadline) and the Pride on Wednesday.
The Thunder went 4-1 under Coleman heading into the Xavier game with a margin of victory of 35.8 points now that Emily Wolph and Aly Kennedy are getting the minutes they deserve and Kristine Anigwe is healthy.
The Mountain Pointe boys were in line for the sectionals (13th overall and No. 8 in sectionals before the North win on Friday was recorded) when games started on Monday, but the state’s toughest DI schedule doesn’t let up.
The Pride (12-9 overall, 9-6 in seeding games) take on Mesa Tuesday, Desert Vista on Thursday and Gilbert on Friday. Mesa and Gilbert are in the top six overall, while Desert Visa, which won the first meeting, is fighting to get into the postseason, let alone the sectionals.
“If we win two this week, we put ourselves in good shape,” Pride coach Aaron Windler said.
The Thunder boys have just the game at US Airways Center with the Pride left. A loss might push them out of the postseason all together as they began the week No. 24 overall and No. 11 in sectionals before last Friday’s win over Maricopa was recorded.
It has been a season for transition at the Storm Center and it might have taken too much of a toll, but should Desert Vista (13-12, 9-7) get in as a seed in the 20s it will be a tough match-up for the higher seed.
While the Horizon Honors boys are going to miss the postseason, the girls are on the fringe of the postseason entering this week’s action.
The Eagles were No. 24 overall and No. 6 in the DIII, Section II standings with a game at Eloy Santa Cruz on Tuesday and host Valley Christian on Friday.
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