MLK Basketball Classic
Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Arizona State University
Schedule: 12 p.m.: Desert Vista vs. Mountain View (girls); 1:30 p.m.: Paradise Valley vs. Coconino (boys); 3 p.m.: Highland vs. Dobson (boys); 5 p.m.: Pinnacle vs. Desert Mountain (boys); 7 p.m.: St. Mary’s vs. Pinnacle (girls)
TV: Cox Ch. 7 (Pinnacle vs. Desert Mountain boys; Pinnacle vs. St. Mary’s girls)
Outlook: This is the 10th version of this tournament, which began in 2004 with four girls basketball games, was an all-boys showcase in 2005 and moved to its current mix of boys/girls matchups in 2006. Attendance and premium competition has helped expand the one-day tournament every year since. The past few years it’s further widened to include a game or two in Tucson area as well as at Grand Canyon University gym for a couple West Valley participants. Though not always are the best games saved for last, but often the best matchups are, and this schedule is no exception. Longtime rivals Desert Mountain vs. Pinnacle figures to be the best boys matchup of the day (the two teams will play again Feb. 1 to end the regular season), with the Wolves looking like a championship contender and the Pioneers with talent to do the same. St. Mary’s vs. Pinnacle girls features the top team in the state (St. Mary’s) and perhaps the best chance of an Arizona school beating the two-time defending state champion Knights (Pinnacle). It’s a Pioneers squad with talent and depth led by superb guard Sydney Wiese. Dobson was a preseason championship contender with a world of talent in Kodi Justice and Basha-transfer Jaron Hopkins, but despite beating Highland, 75-61, in late November, the Mustangs have had trouble with consistency offensively. Both teams are jockeying for position in the upcoming sectional tournament while a state tournament spot is no sure thing at this point. Mountain View’s girls squad has overcome a rash of significant injuries this season to remain an elite team, led by Sabrina Haines and Armani Hawkins, while point guard Rene Coggins’ health after returning from a broken foot will be key for the Toros come tournament time. Coggins has played a couple games since her return but missed one as well. Desert Vista knows something about adversity. First-year coach Jaysie Chambers-Sheppard refused to resign last week after an altercation during the Mountain Pointe game, and JV coach Jontar Coleman is now the Thunder’s interim coach. So far, the Thunder have responded well on the court to the drastic change, but tough games against Xavier and Mountain Pointe to end the regular season await after this matchup. All of these games count as part of the regular season power rankings schedule.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.