One expected dynasty in 5A-I boys basketball has been cut short halfway through its reign.
A new one is looking to take its place.
The departures of Matt Carlino and Nick Johnson have left the Gilbert Highland cupboard mostly bare, as the two young phenoms have both taken their games out of state. The Hawks finished runner-up to Phoenix St. Mary’s last year, and with Johnson and Carlino aboard, would have been title contenders this season and next.
As the Hawks leave, Phoenix North enters.
Led by University of Arizona-bound Daniel Bejarano, North made the state semifinals in 2007 and 2008 and won the 5A-II title last year. The core of that team returns and will move up to 5A-I to challenge for the crown.
“I think North is the obvious best team in the state,” Mesa coach Shane Burcar said. “After that, it’s wide open.”
The lower classes follow the dynasty formula.
In 5A-II, Tucson Ironwood Ridge has a state title and a runner-up finish in the past two years and expects to be in that final game once again.
In 4A-I, Kansas University-bound Royce Woolridge led Phoenix Sunnyslope to last year’s state championship and wants to repeat as a senior.
In 4A-II, University of Maryland commit Terrell Stoglin has made three straight finals but wants to cap off his high school career with a championship.
And finally, in 3A, Arizona State recruit Corey Hawkins has two state titles to his name and wants to add one more to finish it off.
5 E.V. PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jahii Carson, Mesa, 5-11, G, Jr.: Lightning-quick point guard transferred in from Phoenix Mountain Pointe.
George Matthews, St. Mary’s, 6-5, F, Sr.: Smooth player finally gets shot as go-to guy with graduation of Demetrius Walker and others.
John Bailey, Dobson, 6-8, F, Sr.: Averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds for Mustangs last season.
Blondy Baruti, Mesa, 6-9, F, Sr.: Ineligible until new year but will give Mesa a boost.
Josh Amaya, Mesquite, 7-0, C, Sr.: Averaged a double-double last year and now two inches taller.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Basha: Judd Welfringer, 6-5, F, Jr.; Torren Jones, 6-8, F, Fr.; Chandler: Devirous Johnson, 6-3, F, Sr.; Corona del Sol: David Whitmore, 6-7, F, Sr.; Desert Mountain: Peter Smith, 6-6, G, Jr.; Desert Ridge: L.C. Williams, 6-0, G, Sr.; Desert Vista: Lorenzo Ford, 5-11, G, Sr.; Dobson: Jarrett Green, 6-1, G, Sr.; Gilbert: Shawn King, 6-4, G, Sr.; Hamilton: Mikah Fetters, 6-0, G, Sr.; Jerry Harville, 6-0, G, Sr.; Horizon: Kyle Tresnak, 6-10, F, Sr.; Collin Woods, 6-1, G, Jr.; Mesa: Danny Powell, 6-5, F, So.; Mesquite: Christian Bower, 6-0, G, Sr.; Isaiah Strong, 6-0, G, Sr.; St. Mary’s: Josh Fulton, 6-5, F, Sr.; Marcos de Niza: T.J. Burke, 6-8, F, Jr.; Justin Rodriguez, 6-3, F, Sr.; Mountain Pointe: Michael Ramirez, 6-2, F, Sr.; Israel Marshall, 6-1, F, Sr.; Mountain View: Asaad Woods, 6-4, F, Sr.; Perry: Chase Richardson, 6-2, G, Jr.; Pinnacle: Nathan Murdock, 6-3, G, Sr.; Red Mountain: Paul Newendyke, 6-4, G, Sr.; Skyline: Jake Pitcher, 6-5, F, Sr.
Arcadia: Chris Buchanan, 6-3, G, Sr.; Larry Lewis, 6-2, G, So.; Cactus Shadows: P.J. Ubides, 5-9, G, Sr.; Chaparral: Zeke Chapman, 6-1, G, Jr.; Nick Tomsick, 6-0, G, Sr.; Coronado: Shane Harney, 5-9, G, Sr.; Higley: Kelvin Fisher, 5-10, G, Jr.; McClintock: Derek Owens, 6-2, G, Sr.; Notre Dame: Will Barton, 6-3, F, Sr.; Paradise Valley: Naheer Mirza, 5-9, G, Sr.; Queen Creek: Luke Miller, 6-3, F, Sr.; Saguaro: Jack Connors, 6-1, G, Jr.; Scottsdale Christian: Hayden Johnson, 6-6, F, Sr.; Seton: Carter Warnock, 6-9, F, Sr.; Thomas Harty, 6-4, G, Sr.; Andrew Blauvelt, 5-11, G, Sr.; Tempe: Jordan Baker, 6-2, G, Jr.; Marcel McClain, 5-8, G, Sr.; Williams Field: Austin Moyers, 6-5, F, Sr.
Running clock: If one team leads by 30 points or more through three quarters, a running clock is implemented until the lead dips below 30 or there is one minute left in the contest.
Coaching carousel: Gilbert Highland coach Mark Carlino moved to Indiana with his son, Matt. Phoenix Arcadia coach Scott Lovely took over the Hawks, and Luke Neibling was hired at Arcadia.
5A-I power shift: Phoenix St. Mary’s, the 5A-I champion, was hit hard by graduation. Gilbert Highland, the 5A-I runner-up, saw its best two players leave the state. Phoenix North has moved up to 5A-I and is the favorite, with Mesa nipping at its heels.
Fabulous freshman: Chandler Basha’s Torren Jones will be a starter as a freshman. He is 6-foot-8 and already has drawn comparisons to current San Antonio Spurs forward Richard Jefferson. Jones has a scholarship offer from Arizona, among others.
Nov. 30 — St. Mary’s and Phoenix North face off in a matchup of defending champions.
Dec. 3 — No. 1 Phoenix North vs. No. 2 Mesa, although the Jackrabbits will be without Blondy Baruti.
Feb. 12 — Basha-Mountain View and Dobson-Mesquite should have big-time region implications.
Feb. 27 — 4A-I championship game at Jobing.com Arena; 4A-II championship at Tim’s Toyota Center.
March 3 — 5A-I and 5A-II state championship games at Wells Fargo Arena.