3a East Is An Also-Ran In Basketball

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The 3A East is undoubtedly the toughest and most competitive football region in the state.

But when it comes to basketball, the East is an also-ran.

Evidence of the infallibility turned up Feb. 22 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott where all three East teams remaining in the second round of 3A state tournament were sent packing.

The region’s fourth team, Payson, lost, 62-46, on Feb. 19 to Fountain Hills in the first round.

In games involving East teams on Tuesday evening, Round Valley fell 70-59 to Fountain Hills, Winslow roughed up Blue Ridge, 67-57 and Snowflake was thumped, 60-55 by Holbrook.

In the only quarterfinal game that did not involve an East team, Monument Valley advanced with a 73-53 win over Window Rock.

In final four games to be played today, Feb 25, at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale, Holbrook is paired off against Winslow and Fountain Hills, the team that eliminated Payson, takes on Monument Valley.

The championship game will be played tomorrow, also at Jobing.com Arena.

Of the remaining teams, Holbrook is the odds-on favorite to take home the title, having entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed. No. 2 seeded Fountain Hills, however, has the talent to challenge the Roadrunners.

Although Monument Valley entered the postseason with a so-so No. 11 seed, Northern Arizona reservation teams should never be counted out, mostly because of their run-and-gun, pressing style of play that can frustrate and irritate teams not accustomed to the breakneck brand of basketball.

Winslow is a No. 4 seed, but played all season long in the rugged North Region, so the Dogs could be a contender.

North dominates girls

In the girls 3A state tournament, which is traditionally dominated by the Hopi and Navajo Northern Arizona teams, its business as usual with Window Rock, Tuba City and Monument Valley making up three-quarters of the final-four.

The only non-North team still in contention is South Region champion Safford.

Anyone foolish enough to doubt the North’s superiority in girls basketball might want to check out pre-tournament seedings. Window Rock went in as No. 1, Tuba City was No. 2 and Monument Valley No. 3.

What’s unusual about the final four is that the Winslow Bulldogs are missing, having been upset in the first round by Holbrook.

Winslow was a perennial state title contender under former coach Don Petronavich who headed the program for 41 years and led the Dogs to eight state titles since 1989.

The townspeople revered the coach enough to name the school gymnasium after him.

But at the conclusion of last season, at 69 years of age, Petronavich retired and the team struggled without him.

So, for the first time in many, many seasons, Winslow will not be represented in the final four.

However, if two other North teams, say Window Rock and Tuba City make it to tomorrow’s girls championship, Arizona Interscholastic Association coffers are in for a ticket sales windfall. That’s because reservation fans have a storied reputation for following their school teams around the state, often sending thousands of fans to games, especially state championships.

The AIA’s financial boon could be even greater if Monument Valley reaches the boys finals.

Because both the boys and girls 3A championships are slated for either 6 p.m. or 8 p.m., North Region fans will show up in even greater numbers having a team favorite in both state finales.

Tomorrow, Jobing.com Arena could be standing room only and the AIA will be raking stashes of cash only the likes of Bill Gates and John D. Rockefeller have ever counted.

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