It’s a bit too early to make predictions, but the 2009-2010 East Region basketball season could be a barnburner.
That’s because no clear-cut favorite has emerged among either the boys or girls region teams.
Among the boys, Payson’s six-game winning streak is impressive and seems to indicate the Longhorns are indeed a title contender.
But don’t count out Blue Ridge. The Yellow Jackets are 4-1 and their only loss was 46-44 to Payson in the championship of the Cake Chevrolet Shoot Out.
BR also has a 74-37 win over Winslow, a team Payson lost to 66-39, but then rebounded days later to beat 48-44.
The only East team ranked in the top five of a Class 3A Arizona Republic poll is Whiteriver Alchesay which was 2-0 at the time the polling was done.
Snowflake is a real head scratcher. Although the Lobos are 3-2; two of the wins were over Greyhills Academy and then Snowflake lost to Winslow 73-56.
Show Low is 1-2 but hasn’t been seen enough around the region to make evaluations.
For now, Payson appears to have the firepower to win a third consecutive East title, especially with Dakota Marshall and Cody Waterman in the lineup.
Payson’s Jared Swanson, a first-year high school varsity coach, is receiving some good reviews on his coaching ability, which makes the Horns even more potent.
Among the East’s girls teams, Payson is 2-1; losing only to a Winslow team that is state second-ranked.
The Lady Horns are currently the only East team with a winning record, but fans know Snowflake, Blue Ridge and Round Valley can never be counted out.
The past few seasons, Payson and Alchesay have battled for the East crown, but both teams were hit hard by graduation losses and the region race could this season turn into more than a two-horse affair.
Rez on top
The top girls teams from the 3A conference almost always come out of the reservation-area schools of the North Region where basketball is a way of life, not just a sport to be played from November to March.
Take a drive through Whiteriver or any small town on the Northern Arizona reservations and almost every home has a basketball hoop.
In the last Arizona Republic poll, poll, the top five teams — Monument Valley, Winslow, Holbrook, Window Rock and Chinle — are all from the 3A North Region.
At the old Phoenix Indian High School, which closed its doors in 1990, basketball was a source of pride at the Native American boarding school.
As I remember, most of the players were short, but extremely fast and usually could run circles around the taller kids.
Game scores usually passed the 100-point mark and opposing teams had to use substitutes regularly to keep players from wearing down against the relentless running and gunning.