The Nike Tournament of Champions I kicks off Friday, and for some local girl basketball teams it is their first shot at invitational play this season.
For Chandler Seton Catholic, it’s the second invitational of the season. Coach Karen Self’s squad is 11-1 on the season and enters play in the John Anderson Division of Nike TOC with an 11-game winning streak. Five of those wins have come against 5A-I, 5A-II or 4A-I opponents, all above Seton, which is a member of 4A-II. The Sentinels marquee wins are over Phoenix Pinnacle (No. 2 in 5A-II) and Gilbert Mesquite (a solid 5A-I program). Seton is 3-0 in 4A East Sky Region play to date.
Seton’s last six wins have come against 4A opponents by an average of 37 points. Seton opens play today at 2 p.m. against an unbeaten team, Santa Margarita (Pasadena, Calif.), at Chandler Basha High School. Santa Margarita is 4-0 and led by senior guard Melissa Zornig, who is averaging 26 points a game. Seton is led by junior post Theresa Wirth and junior guard Kayla Bustos.
“I know they are really good,” Self said. Santa Margarita is ranked in the top 15 overall in California and is fourth in its section in the state. Seton hasn’t been challenged since its wins over Pinnacle and Mesquite the last week of November, so it’s a contest that figures to stimulate the competitive juices for the Sentinels.
The Nike TOC continues Saturday, Monday and Tuesday at Chandler high schools Hamilton, Chandler, Basha and Perry and Chandler junior high schools San Tan and Willis.
MORE NIKE TOC
One of the six brackets of the Nike TOC I that could involve several local teams in the winners’ bracket early next week is the Gray Division. Gilbert High (10-2), Pinnacle (9-2), Mountain View (6-3) and Chandler (3-1) are among the top teams in 5A-I and 5A-II. Gilbert’s only losses are to Tolleson (No. 1 in 5A-II) and Desert Vista, the only local unbeaten team in 5A-I. Pinnacle’s losses are to Mesa Dobson and Seton. Mountain View’s only loss against an Arizona school is to Dobson. Chandler’s lone defeat is also to Dobson.
ON THE ROAD TO VEGAS
Dobson (9-3) and defending 5A-I champion Gilbert Highland (9-3) can’t seem to see enough of one another. The new 5A Central Region rivals competed in Highland’s Thanksgiving Tournament and will also be together for a trip to the Las Vegas Holiday Classic from Dec. 28-30.
Dobson had a five-game winning streak snapped Monday by Gilbert High. Dobson’s three losses are to Gilbert (twice) and Highland.
Dobson was expected to be a contender this year with fourth-year players Kameron Knutson and Andrea Jones in the fold for coach Tyler Dumas. A big lift for the team has been the emergence of senior guard Johnelle Hannah, who has more than doubled her scoring output from last year and given the Mustangs another 3-point threat to go along with Jones. Knutson, Jones and Hannah are each averaging between 14 and 15 points a game.
“Johnelle spent a lot of time in the gym and played club this summer working on her game,” Dumas said. “She started out as a 5 on her freshman team and the last two years with us as a 3-4. This year we needed another shooter and she’s come in and filled that spot. Bailee Roth stepped up for us there last year. Each year we have to have a senior step up, and it’s definitely been Johnelle. She has a great stroke, even though its a little unconventional. She’s actually leading us in 3s made so far.”
CHANDLER WITHOUT KEY PIECE
After nearly upsetting Gilbert Highland in last year’s 5A-I quarterfinals, the Chandler boys basketball team has started slowly this year.
The Wolves lost much of their firepower to graduation and have been set back by the loss of senior forward Devirous Johnson.
Johnson had surgery on his meniscus before the season and has not played this year. Coach Mike Ellsworth is hoping to get him back when the Wolves play in the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge beginning Dec. 28.
Johnson is an integral piece:
He averaged 12.8 points, 12.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals a game last season.
Mesa High hosts its annual tournament beginning tonight when the Jackrabbits play Queen Creek at 5 p.m., followed by Scottsdale Saguaro and Phoenix Pinnacle. Each of the eight participating teams (Gilbert Williams Field, Casa Grande, Betty Fairfax and Mesa Westwood are the others) will play twice on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., then again Monday.
The third-place match will be Tuesday at 10 a.m., with the championship game to follow at noon.
Due to inclement weather at the start of the Tempe Diablo boys/girls soccer tournament last week, the girls championship match between Phoenix Desert Vista and Gilbert Highland will be played Saturday at 10 a.m. at Phoenix Mountain Pointe high school.
The boys championship between Scottsdale Desert Mountain and Tempe Corona del Sol will be Jan. 9 at Desert Mountain.
VALLEY CHRISTIAN VOLLEYBALL COACH RESIGNS
Chandler Valley Christian girls volleyball coach Molly Stark resigned this week to focus on coaching the Spiral Volleyball Club team.
In three years with Stark at the helm, the Trojans won the 2009 2A state championship and reached the state semifinals twice. The school will begin its search for a new coach immediately.
XAVIER'S PREACH WINS GATORADE AWARD
Phoenix Xavier’s Stephanie Preach was named the 2009-10 Gatorade Arizona Volleyball Player of the Year for the second straight year.
Preach led the Gators to their third straight 5A-I state championship and a 39-6 overall record. She nearly reached the 1,000-
assist mark this season, collecting 997 along with 189 kills and 168 digs.
Preach plans to play at Arizona State next fall.
Tribune writers Mark Heller and Kyle Odegard contributed to this story.