A fierce rivalry is sure to be stirred tomorrow, Jan. 3, in Goodyear Estrella Foothills where the two prep teams that battled for last year’s 3A state championship renew acquaintances.
The Payson Longhorns lost the state title game, 64-51, to the Wolves who are heavy favorites to win their second successive state championship.
The respect being shown Estrella is due mostly to the presence of Corey Hawkins, the son of former NBA player Hersey Hawkins, now an assistant of the Estrella team to head coach Ty Amundsen.
In the 2007-2008 title game, Hawkins and his older brother, Brandon, provided much of the offense in the Wolves’ win.
Brandon has since graduated, but Corey, a 6-foot, 2-inch, 190-pound combo guard, returns as a junior already committed to play for Herb Sendeck at Arizona State.
Hawkins and his Wolves teammates are galloping almost unimpeded through their prep schedule, much like they did last year when the team lost only two games.
Among the team’s impressive wins this season is a “W” over 5A powerhouse Chandler Hamilton and a victory against a highly regarded Sagemont H.S. Florida team in the Arizona Basketball Challenge at Mesa Mountain View.
Sendek was on hand at that game to watch his prize recruit.
Veteran members of the PHS team, including Matt Wilson, Tyler Savage, Cody York and Shane Keith, might open tomorrow’s game with a bit of a chip on their shoulders, remembering EF won the 2007-2008 title at the free throw line.
The Wolves cashed in on 32 of their 44 attempts while Payson made only 16 of 31.
The difference in the number of free throws attempted, 13, had some Payson fans scratching their noggins wondering if a former NBA star on the EF bench might be intimidating the officials.
Also, the Horns also played much of the final quarter without four starters who fouled out. For Estrella, no players fouled out.
Payson, a team many think has the best chance at beating Estrella Foothills, enters the clash on a bit of a tailspin.
“We have shown spurts of what we will turn into when we start playing together, but we have not found a way to consistently play as a team,” coach Kenny Hayes said from Prescott where the Horns were playing in the Bradshaw Mountain Invitational. “When we find out how to do that, we will be a force to reckoned with.”
In the Bradshaw tournament, the Horns struggled, losing 58-50 to Burbank, Calif. and 43-38 to 4A Flagstaff Coconino.
“Burbank was small, fast and pressured us full court,” Hayes said.
“We were down by 26 (points) at one time, but then pulled to within six.”
Dakota Marshall, a versatile player who can handle about any position on the floor except point guard, led the team in scoring with 13 points. Savage finished with 12.
In the loss to Coconino, the two teams were dead knotted 26-26 early in the fourth quarter, but the Panthers went on a 17-12 run to salvage a victory.
Wilson finished with a team-high 11 points, Savage had five and York and Marshall finished with four each. Game time in Estrella Foothills is 7 p.m.
The game will be the final nonregion tune-up before the East campaign tips off Jan. 9 in Show Low.