It's time to hand out the 5A basketball awards for this season.
They're not Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes or Screen Actors Guild awards, but hey, at least this writer is not on strike.
Best girls player
Chandler Hamilton's Bri Brown: Brown can handle the ball, shoot it and rebound. She does everything well.
Best coaching job: boys
Tempe Corona del Sol's Sammy Duane Jr.: The Aztecs navigated one of the toughest schedules in 5A-I and capped the regular season with wins over Phoenix Desert Vista and Chandler Basha. A second-place finish in the Central Region and a berth at state were impressive considering leading scorer Leland Devlin missed the last three weeks and is done for the year.
Best coaching job: girls
Gilbert Mesquite's Candice Gonzales: Mesquite's roster is dotted with underclassmen and plenty got a chance to contribute heavily this season. They stepped up to compete well in the tough Fiesta Region, beating Gilbert twice, Chandler, Hamilton, Phoenix St. Mary's, Chandler Basha and Mesa Dobson. The Wildcats are a tough team to defend since they have good balance offensively. They haven't beaten Highland in three tries this year, but they get another chance tonight in the region tourney final.
Best 1st-year coaching job
Gilbert's Jay Caserio: The Tigers were consistent all year and didn't have that marquee player to rely on night in and night out.
Mesa Dobson's Melvin Douglas IV: Douglas is a solid rebounder and hustler for the Mustangs. If he doesn't get the board he keeps it active or keeps his opponent away from it. We also love the ’do.
Mesa Red Mountain's Deanna Reich: Reich has carried the Mountain Lions with scoring and rebounding. She's a pretty tough kid, too, helping give Mesa Mountain View its hardest game since Christmas a couple weeks ago.
Gilbert Highland's Chanel Thorley: Her improved play installs Highland as the 5A-I favorite heading into state next week. She's had several double-doubles the second half of the season, which has delighted the Hawks.
Red Mountain's Keawe Enos: Enos is a good shooter beyond the arc - streaky, but when he's stroking it, look out.
Best boys region
5A Fiesta: Four of the five schools finished with winning records and reached state. Gilbert Mesquite, which didn't qualify, knocked off the No. 3 seed in next week's state tournament, Sierra Vista Buena. The Fiesta also won more games against East Valley and Central region foes than those schools did vs. the Fiesta.
Best girls region
5A Fiesta (yeah, again): All five teams made it to state and all finished in the top 10 in the power rankings. However, many of those teams seem worse for the wear as the season draws to a close. Gilbert, Chandler and Hamilton have struggled of late.
Making the freebies
A couple weeks back, Mesa Skyline’s J.C. Hall scored a career-high 36 points in the Coyotes’ only Pima Region win this season, a 92-89 triumph over playoff-bound Scottsdale Horizon. Hall scored 21 of his points from the free-throw line. He sank 21-of-22 attempts in the contest. Hall finished the season averaging 19.4 points per game.
The traffic around Gilbert and Ahwatukee Foothills next week could be busy with Gilbert, Gilbert Highland and Phoenix Desert Vista each potentially hosting two state games apiece for their boys and girls basketball teams. If each of those schools wins its first-round game, they host a second. Girls play Tuesday and Friday, boys play Wednesday and Saturday. All three schools have boys and girls teams among the top four seeds in 5A-I. Ditto for Phoenix Pinnacle, which has No. 2 seeds in boys and girls in 5A-II.
One perfect team
The only team to win all of its regular-season games that counted in the power rankings in 5A-I or 5A-II this season was Mesa Mountain View’s girls team. The Toros were 19-0. The win that didn’t count in the calculation was a triumph over Tucson High, which would have given the Toros even more points.
Gilbert High’s Elliott Clark scored 31 points Wednesday night in the Tigers’ 78-62 Fiesta Region tournament victory over Chandler.