Fans who journey to Phoenix America West Arena for the high school state basketball championships will be in for a real treat. In addition to taking in some of the best prep basketball in the state, they'll be able to enjoy the Arizona Interscholastic Association's salute to several anniversary teams.
During halftime and before several of the championship games, the AIA will cite standout teams from 25 years ago, as well as two squads from 50 years ago.
Among the historic teams to be honored will coach Gary Ernst's 1976 Chandler team which surprised everyone by beating East Phoenix in the state semifinals in a whopping four overtimes. The win snapped the Longhorns 54-game winning streak.
Ernst, now at Mesa Mountain View, is a part-time Payson resident.
Also to be honored is 1975-79 Joseph City girls team that won four consecutive state championships an Arizona record at the time.
One of the most unique honors will be doled out to the 1983 Coolidge Bears boys and girls team that won state crowns in the same year. The boys, under Joe Partain, finished 26-0. The girls, coached by Beverly Flower, finished 19-2.
AIA Sports Information Director Barry Sollenberger said, "Seldom in any state have both the boys and girls teams (from the same school) won state crowns in the same year."
Also to be honored at the anniversary celebration will be 1975 boys teams from 4A Nogales (24-2), 2A St. Johns (21-2) and 1A Seligman (26-0).
The Nogales team was coached by Ray Molera, St. Johns by Veryl Heap and Seligman by Jim Wilson.
Also during the shindig, the AIA will honor top coaches and teams from the 20th Century.
Among the programs and coaches to be honored will be former Tempe High and Tempe del Sol coach Sammy Duane the state's all-time winningest boys coach, with 663 wins.
The AIA is also slated to honor the state's two top boys programs St. Johns (1,197 wins) and Phoenix Union (1,073). Before closing in 1982, Phoenix Union won a record 16 state championships between 1916 and 1968.
A great many Rim country fans and coaches know Winslow's Don Petronovich well. He'll be honored at the celebration as the only girls basketball coach in Arizona history to win over 500 games.
Petronovich is serving this year as the 3A state tournament director.
The state championship tournament games at America West which will include semis and finals will begin Feb. 16 and wrap up the following day.
If the Lady Longhorns are fortunate enough to reach the championship game a feat they've never accomplished they'd play at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Payson High School Athletic Director Dave Bradley has two more varsity head coaches he must replace before next season.
Volleyball coach Sue Weams recently resigned as well as boys soccer coach Byron Quinlan.
With five games remaining in the regular season, boy's basketball coach Randy Wilcox abruptly stepped down and was replaced by Bradley.