The youth, inexperienced mantra surrounding Seton Catholic’s girls basketball team won’t let go, even as the Sentinels are, yet again, flying high on scoreboards this winter.
Sitting undefeated (9-0) and No. 1 in the Division II power rankings heading into this weekend – the Sentinels have looked like, well, nearly every Seton teams in recent years: Defensive stalwarts, sharing the ball and armed with a couple difference-makers.
Seton will tangle with another Division II elite squad in defending-champion Saguaro on Monday to begin the MLK Basketball Classic at Grand Canyon University, an annual day-long marathon (five games) tournament of high school basketball for boys and girls.
Seton defeated Saguaro twice last season, but Saguaro won the third matchup in the sectional tournament championship en route to the Sabercats’ first state championship, while Seton was narrowly clipped by Tucson Flowing Wells in the semifinals.
In other words, a rivalry may be budding with these two girls basketball teams: a good kind.
In addition to Saguaro, Seton still has Phoenix South Mountain, surging Marcos de Niza and Division I-standout Mesquite on the regular season schedule.
“It’s very cool and important for us with so many new people on the team we kind of are strangers to this new venue (at GCU),” said Seton coach Karen Self, noting some key contributors are freshman and sophomores. “Plus I’d rather see the best competition in the state. We have strong freedom games designed to prepare us for down the road, even if it means we go 0-4 against those strong teams.”
Along the same thread, all games Monday count in the power rankings for playoff and sectional tournament purposes, so the Sentinels see playing an elite team (Saguaro) in a large, completely unfamiliar venue as a boon. Heather Heild and Julia Barcello are seniors and well-versed on such different environments and backdrops, but it’ll be much-needed exposure for the likes of freshman guard Liz Holter, LeeAnne Wirth, or Jennifer Wirth.
“I’d like to see our decision-making improve but we’re excited about this team and kind of in-training,” Self said. “They’re disciplined and lengthy against the press so it’s harder because we can send big people through the middle and it’s tough to trap. We’ve done well so far. It’s been better.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.