The recently competed Class 3A state basketball tournaments were a tribute to the high quality of play among the northern Arizona reservation schools.
Anyone who has ever traveled through the Navajo, Hopi and Apache reservations knows that basketball is a way of life, possibly a religion, as evidenced by the basketball goals that grace almost every property and the throngs of youngsters who crowd the makeshift outdoor courts.
Some rims are bent, some have no nets and others are oddly positioned on garages, power poles and homes.
Often the basketballs are well-worn synthetic rubber that well-heeled big city kids would not think of playing with.
And there are no uniforms, usually the boys’ pick-up games are shirts vs. skins.
To reach some public courts, boys and girls must crawl under barbed wire fences or scale 10-foot-high barriers. Often the courts are without lights, but that doesn’t keep play from continuing on into the night.
But when those aspiring young players reach high school age, thousands of fans flock to follow them around Arizona filling arenas with standing room only crowds.
Such was the case March 6 and 7 in the 3A semifinals played at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
Those who were there were treated to some of the finest basketball in the state as three reservation girls teams made it to the final four. Monument Valley and Chinle met in one semifinal and Alchesay and Winslow locked horns in the other.
Although Winslow is not technically a reservation-team, it is located very near Navajo and Hopi lands. Because there is a reservation dormitory in Winslow, many of the Lady Bulldog players are and have been tribal members.
In the semifinals, MV whipped Chinle and Winslow edged Alchesay in overtime setting up an all-North Region finale.
In it, Monument rose to the occasion slipping past the Lady Dogs 47-46.
In the boys tournament, two North teams reached the final four — Winslow and Chinle.
Chinle advanced with a victory over the Dogs, but defending state champion Estrella Foothills and its Arizona State-bound superstar Corey Hawkins eventually won the 3A title.
But, the Wildcats, who had earlier eliminated Payson from the tournament, gave EF their best game of the 3A season before falling 46-40.
In addition to the tremendous excitement the reservation teams provided fans from around the state, the crowds that followed them to Glendale most assuredly lined the pockets of the Arizona Interscholastic Association with huge gate receipt profits.
Calling local business people
A great way for local business persons to market their goods and services at a very nominal fee is to participate in a project being sponsored by a local FLW Stren Series bass tournament committee.
Here’s how it works. The expected 400 anglers who enter the tournament April 15 to 18 will be given a type of “goodie bag” the committee chooses to call “Bass Tackle Bags.”
The bags will include coupons, souvenirs, discounts, keepsakes and mementos from local businesses.
The FLW committee predicts the bags will be a great way to introduce local businesses and trades to the visitors.
Those interested in participating in the venture, only need to take whatever they’d like included in the bags to Town of Payson Outdoors and Trails Coordinator Mary McMullen at the Green Valley Park P&R offices. For more information, call McMullen at (928) 474-5242, ext. 7.
The deadline is April 8.