Mesa Red Mountain gets its turn to play with the big girls today through Thursday in the annual Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler.
Eighty teams from across the country are entered in five, 16-team divisions with games at Chandler, Hamilton and Basha high schools and San Tan and Willis junior highs.
Twelve Arizona schools — 10 of them local — are among the competitors. Local teams along with Red Mountain are Basha, Chandler, Hamilton, Chaparral, Mountain Pointe, Desert Ridge, Desert Vista, Saguaro and Valley Christian. Tolleson and Avondale Westview round out the Arizona entrants.
Red Mountain, the preseason 5A Division I favorite in girls basketball, is off to a 6-0 start. Coach Martin Appel said he hopes to see a surge in his team’s play this week. The Mountain Lions open with Providence Day (Charlotte, N.C.) at 4 p.m. today at Hamilton High.
“As a coach I know I’m excited to play this caliber of competition,” Appel said. “I think since the tournament moved to Arizona us and (Phoenix) St. Mary’s have been the only teams to play in the top (elite) bracket.”
Red Mountain has defeated Arizona foes St. Mary’s, Gilbert, Basha, Scottsdale Desert Mountain, Gilbert Highland and Yuma.
“We’ve gone out a couple times thinking that just taking the court will make it OK,” Appel said. “We need to pick it up a notch, especially on the defensive end.”
The top eight teams in Sports Illustrated/Full Court Press preseason poll are among those in the field in the elite (Black) division. They are Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, Collins Hill (Suwanee, Ga.), Providence Day, Christ the King (Queens, N.Y.), The First Academy (Orlando, Fla.), Notre Dame Academy (Middleburg Va.), Ursuline Academy (Wilmington, Del.) and Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.).