The first month of the winter sports season has flown by.
For some teams’ postseason hopes, its been good news and for others its been bad. But with the holiday break, everyone has a chance to regroup before resuming regular-season play in January. Here’s a look at what we have learned so far.
What we’ve learned: Southern Arizona is deep. Cienega, a state semifinalist last season, improved to 7-1 with a 41-39 win at Sunnyside on Wednesday night and even with the loss, the Blue Devils (9-3) are still very much in the Division II postseason race. Likewise, Cholla (11-) appears to be heading for the state tournament once again having scored at least 80 points in each of its last six games.
Player to watch: Empire senior Deion James has averaged 21.5 points and 12.1 rebounds per game while helping the Ravens to 7-3 start before Thursday night’s game at Pueblo. The 6-foot-8-inch forward has recorded three 30-point games this season.
Second-half outlook: After missing the state tournament last season, Nogales (9-2) has been playing well. Tonight’s game against a tough Sierra Vista Buena team will be an indicator of how good the Apaches are.
What we’ve learned: Cienega and Sahuaro are a combined 23-0. Both reached the Division II state tournament and have two of the best players in the area in senior Treyanna Clay and junior Sydney Harden. Clay, who is signed with Iona, helped lead Cienega to the state finals for the first time last season and is play just as well this year.
Player to watch: Tucson High junior Alexis Cortez is Southern Arizona’s female scorer with a whopping 25.3 points per game. The 5-five-foot-11-inch junior has scored 20 or more points in all but three games this season.
Second-half outlook: Palo Verde reached the Division III state tournament last season and appears to be in line to get back there thanks to the stellar play of senior Sydney Stallworth, who is averaging 20.2 points, 8.3 rebounds, 5.5 steals and 5.4 assists per game. Plus, the Titans (7-5) have yet to lose to a team in their division.
What we’ve learned: Defending Division II state champions Tucson High and Catalina Foothills don’t have a match scheduled but there’s a pretty good chance the two could face off deep in the Division II state tournament. Foothills opened up the season by winning the Brandon Bean Kickoff Classic while Tucson won the Chris Maier Invitational last weekend.
Player to watch: Salpointe Catholic senior Andrew Bianchi has helped the Lancers get back on track after they missed the state tournament last year. He has eight goals and three assists as Salpointe is right behind Foothills and Tucson in the postseason picture.
Second-half outlook: Amphitheater was a Division III state semifinalist last season and appears to pick up right where it left off. Senior forward Qais Esar, who scored 34 goals last season, has already accounted for 10 this year as the Panthers near section play.
What we’ve learned: Catalina Foothills has continued to dominate under first-year coach Dave Lemon. The Falcons, who have reached the state finals in each of the last five years, have outscored opponents 14-3 this season. Foothills’ lone loss came against Ironwood Ridge in the championship game of the Brandon Bean Kickoff Classic earlier this month.
Player to watch: Sahuaro senior Allison Raniere leads local Division II scorers with 14 goals, four of which came in a 4-1 win against I-Ridge last weeks. The midfield has also added seven assists as the Cougars try to return to the state semifinals.
Second-half outlook: Walden Grove reached the Division III quarterfinals last season and, with everyone back, it was expected that the Red Wolves would be tough – just not this tough. Sophomore midfielder Isabella Solorza leads the state in goals and assists with 18 and 16, respectively as Walden Grove is 10-0. Now the question is if the Red Wolves can keep it going this strong in the second half of the season.