North Region Dominates State Finals

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At the onset of the state high school basketball tournament a week ago, the Roundup reported that the East region suffered tough luck when it drew the North as foes for opening round games.

The North, which includes most of the Navajo and Hopi reservation schools, is a hot bed of basketball. Drive through any of the reservation communities and you'll notice a basketball rim tacked to about any structure that stands more than 10 feet high.

Spirited pick-up games that last late into the evening are a way of life on the reservation.

The North is a good draw in the football playoffs because the sport is not as popular as basketball or as well played.

But on the hardwood, the North is king especially where the girls teams are concerned. For proof, check out these girls' first-round playoff scores from Flagstaff.

North kingpin Winslow disposed of East runner-up Snowflake 59-40. East champion Round Valley was soundly thumped by North four-seed Monument Valley 77-55. Payson, the East runner-up, was crushed 51-33 by North three-seed Ganado.

North runner-up Tuba City more than doubled the score on North's Holbrook 68-32.

At the end of the first round, the North was 4-0. That show of force was no fluke; the region's dominance continued throughout the tournament.

When the 3A semifinals begin Friday at America West arena, the games will feature an all-North format. Ganado plays Winslow at 3:15 p.m. and Kayenta Monument Valley takes on Tuba City at 6:45 p.m.

The survivors meet at 2 p.m. Saturday to decide the state championship. In boys basketball, the North turned in a downright good showing, but didn't dominate to the degree the girls did.

A pair of North teams have advanced to the semifinals also to be played at America West beginning Friday. At 5 p.m. the North's Monument Valley is pitted against highly talented Coolidge of the South Region. At 8:30 p.m. North stalwart Tuba City takes on West regional powerhouse Wickenburg.

Of the eight teams alive in the state championship boys and girls tournaments, six of them represent the North.

The region's superiority in basketball has been a fact of Arizona sports life for decades.

In 1984, while I was football coach at Show Low High School, I took the Cougars to Ganado for a playoff game. As expected, we won. But, while filing off the field and shaking hands with the Ganado players, I heard one of them utter to a Show Low athlete, "Good game, see ya in basketball season."

Sure enough, weeks later the Hornets enjoyed a taste of sweet revenge by taking the Cougars apart in about every hardwood way imaginable.

Stars to be announced

At the conclusion of the state prep tournaments Saturday evening, the members of the All-East regional team will be announced.

The athletes are chosen to the squads in a voting of head coaches held at the conclusion of the regular season.

Being selected is quite an honor because it means the young athlete has captured the respect and attention of opposing coaches.

Payson has several players who are in the running for all-star slots.

In addition to being eligible for the all-region team, seniors can participate in the Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game in Casa Grande this summer.

Those teams will be selected, also in a voting of coaches, later this spring.

Angling battle on the horizon

AllStar Bass will be hosting a team tournament Feb. 24 at Bartlett Lake.

Call (480) 894-2775 for more information of visit the Web site at www.azha.com. AllStar events have proven to be good showcases for many Gila County fishermen's skills.

Only two weeks ago, Clifford Pirch and Reese Randall both Payson High School alumni teamed up to finish third at an Apache Lake tournament. The two enriched their coffers by $1,800 for the bronze-medal finish.

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