The Catalina Foothills, Salpointe Catholic and Phoenix Shadow Mountain boys basketball teams all could have been playing in Thursday night’s Division II state semifinals.
But Shadow Mountain was the only one to make it.
The reason: The three teams, all of which were ranked the top four of the final Division II power rankings, ended up bunched up in one “group of death” thanks to an unfair seeding formula.
There’s no way Foothills, the No. 4 team in the final power rankings, shouldn’t have received a first-round bye and then been forced to play at Shadow Mountain in the second round of the state tournament. At best, the two should have met in the semifinals.
There’s also no way top-seeded Salpointe and Shadow Mountain should have been playing in the quarterfinals. They were the top two teams in the division and clearly should have been on opposite sides of the bracket to set up a huge showdown in Saturday’s state championship game.
The qualifying process for the state tournament is this:
- Each winner of the seven section tournaments, regardless of power ranking, gets an automatic first-round bye and second-round home game.
- The final 17 seeds are based off the rankings but, other than that, the system essentially throws out the body of work from the regular season.
Sure, I completely agree each section tournament winner should get an automatic bid for the state tournament. But in no way did No. 19 Surprise Shadow Ridge and No. 36 Lake Havasu deserve more than that. They both should have been on the road in the first round. Lake Havasu was 12 spots from even being in position for an at-large bid. Yet, because it won its weak section with all six teams outside of the top 35, it got what Foothills proved it deserved all season: a first-round bye and second-round home game.
If there was a human element to assembling these brackets, something the Arizona Interscholastic Association should really consider, it likely would have noticed these flaws and tried to fixed them. The AIA should also adjust the qualifying process to keep something like this from happening again.
Foothills lost in the first round of sectionals, but it shouldn’t have cost the Falcons so much that they dropped to the No. 8 seed. And when Shadow Mountain lost its section championship game in triple overtime, the Matadors shouldn’t have fallen to that spot and bumped the Falcons to the ninth seed.
That meant they’d face each other in the second round and the winner would likely be facing top-seeded Salpointe in the quarters. That’s exactly what happened.
Foothills lost to the Matadors on the road by two points, and Salpointe fell victim to a 35-point fourth-quarter rally. Both games were potential state semifinal or final matchups; since they weren’t, neither team gets to say it made it to the Final Four or gets to take home any hardware.
It’s a shame, too; both teams were clearly deserving.
Cougars’ Verdugo gains another accolade
Sahuaro senior left-hander and slugger Alex Verdugo was named a preseason All-American by Baseball America this week. The national publication also ranked the ASU signee as the 25th-best draft prospect for this summer. As a junior, Verdugo struck out 130 batters and drove in 40 runs.
Three local softball teams in top 100
A state semifinalist last spring, the Empire softball team was ranked 58th in the MaxPreps national preseason Top 100. Canyon del Oro, which went 31-6 last spring, was 65th and Cienega was 98th.
Baseball, softball tourneys this weekend
Spring sports will be in full swing this weekend thanks to a pair of tournaments in the area.
The Ideal Physical Therapy Cowboy Up Classic started Wednesday and lasts through Saturday. The baseball tournament, played at the Kino Sports Complex south fields, features 22 teams. Meanwhile, there are 19 softball teams playing the Dorado Classic at Mike Jacobs Sports Park. The three-day event concludes with a 2 p.m. championship game on Saturday.