For Basha and St. Mary’s, Thursday is a chance to gain consistency less than week after huge wins.
For Desert Vista, it’s about taking back bragging rights in Ahwatukee and the chance to beat an elite opponent — something the Thunder haven’t done in a couple years.
For Mountain Pointe, it’s about keeping what the Pride earned last season while quickly recuperating from a rare loss.
For Mesa and Chandler, it’s about vying for a precious (and early) Fiesta Region win.
For Brophy, it’s about remembering what made the Broncos so good the past five years, and how well a young, raw team can conduct a self-turnaround. To do so this week, they’ll have to conquer one of the best teams in the state.
For Mountain View, Dobson, Highland, Gilbert, Desert Mountain, Pinnacle and everyone else, it’s about any win, any way possible.
“After Thursday we’ll know a lot and continue to learn as we go through this rough schedule,” Thunder coach Dan Hinds said, a theme heard often ‘round the region this week. “We’re young with (underclassmen) and as we play quality teams, it’s needed to line up against a group like that and I think that’s going to pay off for us in the postseason. That’s how I look like it.”
This may be a short week for the Class 5A schools — games were moved up a day in 5A due to the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur (most smaller schools still play Friday). But the schedules and first three weeks have aligned themselves in a way that could offer significant insight into what several schools do and don’t possess at the one-third mark of the regular season.
For Mesquite, this week is a golden chance to both play spoiler and heave itself into the discussion among 5A Division I contenders. For the Wildcats’ opponent, Chaparral, it’s about cleaning up mistakes — errors the Firebirds know won’t fly against the two best teams they’ve faced so far this season (Mesquite and Phoenix North Canyon next week).
“It’s a big test for us,” Firebirds coach Charlie Ragle said. “I’ve got to believe (Mesquite) believes they could have won last year. ... This is going to be a giant test for us defensively.”
As for this year, everyone still believes. It’s too early not to. Even teams currently winless can get into the playoffs thanks to power points and strengths of schedule. Five wins could put some schools on the bubble later on (Westwood and Glendale Mountain Ridge made the postseason with five wins in 2009).
The difference this week, however, is that most of the 5A schools begin region play next week. That’s a hellacious schedule in the Fiesta and a gauntlet through most of the East Valley and Central regions.
It also means Thursday is a final tune-up to get things right, or face the possibility of suffering the consequences from here on out.
“Getting ready for region play, I’d rather play a team like Centennial,” Brophy coach Scooter Molander said. “We know it’s a huge challenge for us because they’ve obviously been so good for a long time now. If we go and play a team that clearly we’re better than and roll, yeah, it makes you feel better, but it doesn’t get you ready for much later.”
Thursday night’s schedule includes several games that may prove pivotal for the teams involved.
Chandler at Mesa
Basha at Cesar Chavez
Mesquite at Chaparral
Desert Vista at Mountain Pointe
Centennial at Brophy