Payson High boys basketball coach Joe Sanchez believes his team has players who are strong candidates to make the prestigious All-Section III team even though results of coaches’ balloting has not yet been announced.
“I’m hoping we get at least two, maybe more,” Sanchez said. “My voting is in and I’m trying to find out when the team will be announced, but I haven’t been able to.”
Tanner Hintze and Cole Belcher are probably Payson’s two strongest candidates to make the all-section team, but Josh Oakley, Guillermo Lopez and others could possibly receive recognition.
Hintze is a good bet to receive the coaches’ nod partly because he ended the season with the sixth highest scoring average (15.4 ppg) in Section III and 12th best in D-III.
As good a scorer as the junior sharpshooter was, he was not a one-trick pony.
His rebounding average of 7.4 ppg is fifth highest in S-III and his 122 free throw attempts is third best in the section.
Hintze also led the Longhorns in blocked shots with 30, eighth best in the section, and averaged 1.8 assists per game.
Belcher appeared in all 29 of Payson’s games averaging 11.4 points per contest, which is 15th highest in the section.
While Belcher was a proven scorer who complemented Hintze well, he was also a load on the boards averaging 6.3 rebounds per game —
ninth best in S-III.
He also dished out 63 assists, which was 14th highest in the section.
Belcher blocked 20 shots, second on the team and had 42 steals.
Lopez, a 5-foot-9-inch junior point guard averaged 6.3 points, two assists and 1.5 steals per game.
His finest outing might have been in 75-60 loss to Valley Christian on Feb. 14 in the first round of the S-III tournament.
He finished with a season high 19 points hitting 2-of-6 three-pointers and 6-of-7 free throws. He also had two steals and a blocked shot.
Oakley, a 6-foot, senior shooting guard, was one of only three team members to play in all 29 of Payson’s games. He averaged 8.4 ppg and was third on the team in three-pointers with 13. On Dec. 6 in an 88-56 win over Mingus, Oakley had his best scoring night of the season finishing with 20 points.
He heated up again at the end of the campaign scoring 10, 12 and 16 points in the Horns’ final three games.
With the season at and end all that remains is for players, coaches, parents and fans to gather for the annual awards banquet.
Sanchez says he is in the process of finding a date in which all could attend, but that is complicated because many of the athletes are involved in after-school practices with the track, baseball, softball and golf teams.
Alignment changes bring new voting method
Voting for postseason star teams is more confusing than in past year’s because prep teams are now aligned, for the first season, in a division-section configuration rather than the region-conference alignment that had been used for a decade.
In the former system, coaches simply gathered at a common site at season’s end to vote and the results were calculated and announced.
Now coaches’ voting must be done online with the Arizona Interscholastic Association and most coaches say they remain in the dark when the AIA will announce the outcomes.
The new voting process turned highly controversial in football when coaches around the state objected to the AIA taking the voting out of the hands of coaches and turning it into an online process rather than face-to-face meetings.
Tolleson’s Mike Brown was among the coaches to take exception to AIA’s online voting mandate.
In an e-mail to AzFCA members he wrote, “We are doing all-section like we have done all-region in the past and how it should be done: coaches talking about kids and voting in person.”
He also contended it was important for voting to remain entirely in the hands of the coaches and not with a state entity.
Brown supported continuing the face-to-face voting method writing, “There is no bylaw in the AIA that says we have to do (online voting).”
The coaches in Brown’s section rejected the AIA’s online methods and continued to vote in meetings as they have for decades.
Section III football coaches had a head-to-head voting meeting but also cast online ballots.