With impressive 22-4 credentials , the Shelby School boys' basketball team will travel to West Sedona school today (Friday) to participate in tournament play.
All season long, tiny Shelby -- a private school located in Tonto Village -- has found ways to humble schools with much larger student body counts.
The team's most recent outing, Jan. 28 in Mayer, was no exception as Shelby took a 40-27 victory over Mayer Middle School. A day earlier, Prescott Granite Mountain -- which Shelby had beaten by 22 points early in the campaign -- edged the locals 34-32 in the Tonto Apache gymnasium.
The key to slowing Shelby's success, coach Steve Rensch said, is now crystal clear.
"There is a pattern that determines our games -- all teams are now triple-teaming Dallas (Rensch) -- even those who have never played us before," the coach said. "If the other kids on our team hit the open shots, we win. If they don't, we lose."
The focus on Dallas Rensch -- the coach's son -- became the opposition's strategy after the youngster paced Shelby to numerous early-season wins with his prolific scoring.
In Shelby's 52-36 win over Rim Country Middle School during the Copper State Jam Tournament in early January, the Mavericks didn't put any extra defensive emphasis on stopping Dallas, and he burned RCMS for a whopping 29 points.
Since then, the word of his scoring prowess spread and the opposition's philosophy has become, "stop Dallas and you beat Shelby."
In the win over Mayer, Dallas was held in check most of the first three quarters by a double-team defense. With Shelby leading only 21-19 early in the fourth quarter, Alex Cassuto paced a run that helped Shelby win by 13. Cassuto finished with 14 points. Dallas had 10.
Coach Rensch also credited Paul Silver, who was making his first start, for his hustle. "He was breaking up Mayer plays all over the court," the coach said.
In the loss to Granite Mountain, Shelby led much of the game, but GM took a two-point lead on a three-pointer with only 30 seconds remaining. Shelby had a last-gasp scoring attempt, but couldn't convert. Dallas and Mark Moore finished with 10 points each for Shelby.
At the Dilcon Tournament held in Winslow in late January, Shelby advanced to the championship game with a forfeit win against Winslow and a 33-29 triumph over Kayenta.
In the finale, the tall and talented Snowflake Lobos sneaked past Shelby 27-26.